Meetings between Belgrade and Pristina in Switzerland: There is nothing secret, they have been held for six years with representatives of parliamentary parties

Source: The Council for Inclusive Governance (CIG)

On November 11 and 12, the Council for Inclusive Governance (CIG) organized an informal meeting, in the Swiss Solothurn, of representatives of the parliamentary parties of Serbia and Kosovo to exchange opinions on future relations and solving urgent issues, it was announced on the organization's website.

Participants spoke about the tensions in Kosovo that arose in early November and the prospects for a comprehensive agreement based on the recent EU framework.

These are meetings that have been held since 2016 under the "Chatham House" rules, which means that the content of the meetings and the statements of the participants, representatives of parliamentary parties, and NGOs from Serbia and Kosovo are not made public.

According to Kosovo Online, at the meeting held in mid-November, the participants discussed, among other things, that it was in the common interest of both Belgrade and Pristina to develop good and stable relations; that they were concerned about the security situation and that concrete actions needed to be taken to resolve the current situation, such as to increase efforts to solve long-term issues, and that, for this, it was necessary to invite key international actors (EU, Germany, France, US) to establish a new solid framework that would guide Kosovo and Serbia through the negotiation process that would ultimately result in such an agreement, but also to establish a road map for negotiations including time frames.

Serbia was represented at that meeting by Nemanja Starovic from the Serbian Progressive Party, Sanda Raskovic Ivic from the People's Party, Branko Ruzic from the Socialist Party of Serbia, Djordje Pavicevic from the movement "Do not let Belgrade down", while Ardian Gjini from ABK, Lufti Haziri from the Democratic League of Kosovo, Mimoza Kusari-Lila from the Self-Determination movement.

The representative of the Swiss Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Roland Salvisberg, as well as representatives of the CIG, Gresa Baftiu, Shpetim Gashi, and Alex Roinishvili Grigorev, was also present.

The president and the member of the CIG Board of Directors, Alex Roinishvili Grigorev, told Kosovo Online that there was nothing spectacular or secret in those meetings, that they were discussions of parliamentary parties that had been held since 2015.

"These are meetings of the second track. They are not negotiations; they are organized to help in the dialogue. And they are not secret, but are organized according to the principle of Chatham House. I saw the title of Neue Zurcher Zeitung and I can only say that it is sensational," he said.

He pointed out that the only official dialogue was the dialogue conducted in Brussels with the mediation of the EU.

"We have been doing this for many years without any difference. The same participants (representatives of parliamentary parties) remain, but also the problem that needs to be solved. If we can help, we are here. But it is up to Pristina and Belgrade to solve the problem," Roinishvili Grigorev said.

By the way, CIG is a non-governmental organization, successor to the Princeton-based Project on Ethnic Relations (PER), which promotes inclusive and responsible governance, facilitates constructive dialogue as a means of fostering inter-party cooperation, inter-ethnic agreement, and inter-state cooperation, and analyzes contemporary political issues.

The work of CIG is supported by the British Office for Foreign Affairs, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation.

The Swiss Neue Zurcher Zeitung announced today that Switzerland was discreetly mediating between Serbia and Kosovo in order to prevent further escalation of the conflict, stating that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of that country had received representatives of Belgrade and Pristina a week after the withdrawal of the Serbs from Kosovo's institutions.

The newspaper, referring to the statement of the spokeswoman of the Ministry, Elisa Raggi, stated that this was not the first meeting in Switzerland and that the country had been supporting the EU in the dialogue on the normalization of relations with its own complementary instruments since 2015. She also said that meetings away from the public eye were important so that the representatives of Serbia and Kosovo could regularly discuss political issues and thus create trust.

"This enables discrete direct contacts, for example, to prevent the outbreak of violence," Raggi stated in her reply to "NZZ".

Regarding those meetings, the president of the People's Party, Vuk Jeremic, announced today that "the season of secret negotiations has begun."

"Partition was almost negotiated with Thaci in Paris. In the US embassy in Berlin, the 'Washington Agreement' was born. What should we expect now?" Jeremic wrote on Twitter.

The director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petkovic, reacted to this, calling Jeremic a hypocrite since a representative of his party had participated in the meetings.

Nemanja Starovic, the representative of the Serbian Progressive Party at these gatherings, for Kosovo Online, assessed that Jeremic's statement about the secret negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina that were taking place in Switzerland had to seem tragicomic to anyone who knew the ropes.

"Namely, Jeremic refers to an article about a meeting that took place in Switzerland in mid-November. To be clear about what this is about, we need to know that informal talks between representatives of parliamentary political parties from Belgrade and Pristina, sometimes with the participation of NGOs, have been held periodically for seven years. There is nothing secret about it, and how could it be when representatives of the government and the opposition are equally represented. Reports from the meetings are published on the organizers' website, as well as the list of participants. However, Jeremic's statement takes on a tragicomic tone because precisely at that meeting in mid-November, his People's Party was represented at the highest level, in the form of one of the vice-presidents of the party," Starovic said.

He also pointed out that Jeremic, in his desire to collapse the state policy of defending the territorial integrity of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija with some alleged sensational findings, "once again shot himself in the foot".