We all have had a long day. Yes, it has been a long day and I want to express my sincere gratitude to our friends here in North Macedonia, for such a generous hospitality, thank you Prime Minister [of North Macedonia Dimitar Kovačevski] for hosting us here in this beautiful [city of] Ohrid with the lake and the mountains and the city. It was a fantastic view from the windows of the meeting. And it has provided a fantastic venue for this important meeting. So, thank you, we will come back with more time to enjoy it.
You know that the objective today was for Kosovo and Serbia to agree on how to implement the Agreement, accepted in the last High-level meeting on 27 February in Brussels. The Agreement was reached at the end of February but today the issue was to agree on how it should be implemented.
This means practical steps on what has to be done, by when it has to be done, by whom and how. It is often said that the devil is in the details, well sometimes the devil is in the calendar, in the schedule, in the timing.
And we have been discussing for 12 hours about it. And I am glad to announce that, finally, after 12 hours, we have a deal, we have an agreement on how to do it.
So I can announce that Kosovo and Serbia have agreed on the Implementation Annex of the Agreement on the Path to Normalisation of Relations between them, between Kosovo and Serbia.
As part of the Annex, the Parties have fully committed to honour all Articles of the Agreement, and implement all their respective obligations expediently and in good faith.
And this result comes after extensive and difficult negotiations. I don’t want to hide it. You don’t stay twelve hours arguing for easy things.
We met today in many different formats and constellations, with the aim to bridge differences between the Parties.
Allow me to focus on some specific issues:
To implement Article 7 of the Agreement, Kosovo has agreed to launch immediately – and when I am saying immediately, I mean immediately – negotiations within the EU-facilitated Dialogue on establishing specific arrangements and guarantees to ensure an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian community in Kosovo.
The Parties also agreed to endorse the Declaration on Missing Persons, as negotiated under the EU-facilitated Dialogue, as a matter of urgency.
I have to recognise that we initially proposed a more ambitious and detailed proposal for the Annex. Unfortunately, the Parties could not reach an agreement on this detailed proposal.
This was on the one hand, because I think that one party, Kosovo, lacked flexibility on the substance, and on the other hand because [of] Serbia’s previously stated principles not to sign although they were fully ready to implement.
We have a deal
Kosovo and Serbia have agreed on the Implementation Annex of the Agreement on the path to normalisation of relations
The parties have fully committed to honour all articles of the agreement and implement their respective obligations expediently and in good faith. pic.twitter.com/p3CUBdcd8A
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) March 18, 2023
In order to try to avoid these circumstances we made a number of creative proposals both about signature and the substance, but the Parties were not able to find a mutually acceptable solution as ambitious as we were proposing.
So the Annex and the Agreement are considered adopted through my statement that will be published.
Believe me, despite the fact that a more ambitious text was proposed at the beginning, what the Parties have accepted, which means the Agreement and its implementation through the Annex, will become an integral part of their respective EU paths.
And in order to make it very concrete, I will launch the work immediately to formally include the relevant amendments in the Negotiation Chapter 35 of Serbia’s EU Negotiation Framework, and on the agenda of Kosovo’s Special Group on Normalisation.
This way, both parties will be bound by the Agreement which will be part of their European Union path.
And we, at the European Union, we will forcefully demand the Parties to fulfil their obligations because now they are part, or they will be part of their EU Paths.
And not fulfilling [them] will come with consequences.
I think that we should focus on the content of what we have agreed today. And it is clear that both Parties will gain significant benefits from this Agreement.
Because the Dialogue is not only about Kosovo and Serbia. And the attention from you – from so many media across the region and beyond – proves this.
This is not just about Kosovo and Serbia, it is about the stability, the security, the prosperity of the whole region.
This Dialogue must be seen in the current broader geopolitical context, as an important tool to maintain peace and stability in the broader Western Balkans region.
And on Monday, the EU Foreign Ministers will be meeting in Brussels and the EU Leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday at the European Council. I will debrief them about these talks and about the engagement by both Parties to swiftly and fully implement their obligations.
I want to thank the EU Special Representative [for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues] Miroslav Lajčák and all his team, and also my team coming from Brussels, for their tireless work. We have been engaged around the clock and I think that they deserve recognition and praise for their work that, believe me, is not always easy.
I want to stress that to open the path towards reaching their strategic objective of joining the European Union, Serbia and Kosovo need to normalise their relations. There is no way around it.
And this Agreement, and this Annex, which is an integral part of the Agreement, is an important step forward in order to make it a reality.
And we will continue working tirelessly until we reach a comprehensive agreement on the normalisation of their relations.
And I thank you for your attention, sorry for making you wait for so long, and thank you once again for the attention that you have been giving to the event.