Thu, 28 May 2020

BRUSSELS -- Former Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak is expected to become this week the European Union special representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and the Western Balkans.

According to a leaked document seen by RFE/RL, Lajcak is to take up the new post for a period of one year on April 2, a day after EU ambassadors are expected to give their green light to his appointment.

According to the working document dated March 30, Lajcak's first task is to achieve a 'comprehensive normalization of relations' between Serbia and Kosovo.

That should be done through the conclusion of a 'legally binding agreement that addresses all outstanding issues between the parties in accordance with international law and contributing to regional stability,' the document says.

Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008 in a move rejected by Belgrade, its ally Moscow, and a number of other states, including Slovakia and four other EU member states.

Both Kosovo and Serbia aspire to join the EU, which has made the normalization of relations a precondition.

But EU-mediated negotiations broke down in 2018 over reports of a proposed land swap and after Kosovo imposed a 100 percent tax on Serbian imports.

The expected appointment of Lajcak has been met with skepticism in Kosovo, where President Hasim Thaci tweeted a few weeks ago that the Slovak's 'mission is designed to fail due to his record to stop Slovakia to recognize Kosovo.'

The EU document seen by RFE/RL says Lajcak's mandate will also consist in improving neighborly relations and reconciliation in the entire Western Balkans, enhancing EU visibility through public diplomacy, and contributing to the unity, consistency, and effectiveness of the EU action in the region.

Apart from Serbia and Kosovo, the Western Balkans includes four other EU hopefuls: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.

Lajcak, who was proposed to the post by EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell, stepped down as Slovakia's foreign minister earlier this month after eight years in that role.

He has also served as high representative for Bosnia between 2007 and 2009, overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian War.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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