Experts said the meeting between the two presidents signals a constructive atmosphere for the normalisation of relations.
By Linda Karadaku and Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 14/02/13
Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga (right) and Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic (left) met in Brussels with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (centre right). [EU]
Experts and citizens are calling last week's meeting between Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic a large step forward in the process of normalising relations between the two countries.
"[The presidents discussed] regional, economic and political co-operation, not because the EU requires it, but because it is in the best interest of the citizens and the economy, and in particular the Serbian community in Kosovo," said Jelko Kacin, European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia.
He said that that the normalisation of relations with Kosovo remains a priority for Serbia in order to receive a date for the start of negotiations with the EU.
Oliver Ivanovic, former state secretary at the former Serbian Ministry for Kosovo, said that such talks are important because stability in Kosovo can only be preserved through dialogue.
"Moreover, I think that both sides have grown in the eyes of the EU with this meeting, because up until recently there had been no readiness for such meetings. This is still a step forward in normalising relations," Ivanovic told SETimes.
Seb Bytyci, executive director of the Balkan Policy Institute in Pristina, agreed. "Serbia can benefit directly from this by taking the date to start the negotiations for the EU membership, therefore the meeting was expected," Bytyci told SETimes.
Bytyci said the process of the talks between Kosovo and Serbia should continue.
"For the issues that are indispensable, according to the EU, agreements will be done, creating a corpus of agreements that at the end will be presented as a package of the normalisation [of the relations between the two countries], even though, not all issues will be solved," Bytyci said.
However, not everyone was happy with the meeting.
"With this meeting, Jahjaga is washing out the blame of Serbia for the crimes committed in Kosovo, she is washing out the blame from the current Serbian leadership for its positions on Kosovo and she is washing out the blame from the Serbian president Nikolic for his personal responsibility, for his actions and statements," Shpend Ahmeti, deputy chairman of Kosovo opposition party Vetevendosje, told SETimes.
Some Serbia politicians agreed.
Slobodan Samardzic, vice president of the opposition Democratic Party of Serbia, said that the meeting was a step closer to recognising Kosovo's independence.
Samardzic told reporters in Belgrade he fears that Serbia is ready to recognise Kosovo if Kosovo Serbs were given autonomy.
But citizens think that moving forward with dialogue by holding meetings like this is the way to forge a solution to the issue.
"However, I do not see much room for compromise if both sides keep repeating their maximalist demands," Mirjana Prokic, a tourist guide from Belgrade, told SETimes.
"The meeting will open the road and support the process of dialogue initiated between the two countries," Luan Ibraj, a Pristina resident, told SETimes.