EU appoints Miroslav Lajčák as Special Representative for Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 3, 2020 16:00

EU appoints Miroslav Lajčák as Special Representative for Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue

TIRANA, April 3 - The European Council officially appointed Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajčák on Friday as its Special Representative for talks between Pristina and Belgrade as well as other Western Balkan issues.

In a press release, the European Council stated that "the tasks of the new EU Special Representative will be to achieve comprehensive normalisation of the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, improve good neighbourly relations and reconciliation between partners in the Western Balkans, helping them overcome the legacy of the past, and contribute to the consistency and effectiveness of EU action in the Western Balkans."

Lajčák will take up his duties immediately, with an initial mandate of 12 months.

"The Western Balkans have always been close to my heart, as I’ve worked in and with the region for a long time. I’m honored to be entrusted with this important task," Lajčák tweeted, adding that he is "looking forward to working together with representatives of Serbia & Kosovo, heads of DELs, and in close cooperation with the U.S."

EU's announcement sparked a reaction by the French Embassy in Pristina as well, stating that "Miroslav Lajčák can count on France's support for exercising its function as EU Special Representative responsible for facilitating dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia."

Lajčák previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia and as President of the United Nations General Assembly for its 72nd session from 2017 to 2018. He was EU Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2007-2009. Lajčák was proposed for the position by EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell, whose work Lajčák will be following.

Debates ahead of Lajčák 's appointment prompted hesitation in some EU countries and in Kosovo, as Slovakia is one of the five European countries that do not recognize Kosovo's independence yet. Moreover, Josep Borrell, the European Union's High Representative, comes from Spain, a country which does not recognize Kosovo's independence either.

Lajčák's candidacy for the post was criticized by Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaçi who, a few days ago, wrote that "his new mission is designed to fail due to his record to stop Slovakia to recognize Kosovo and the vote against Kosovo’s seat in UNESCO." Prior to this, Thaçi had also expressed concern over Borrel being unreliable to mediate an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, due to the fact that he comes from a country which does not recognize Kosovo's independence.

Other experts have been critical toward Lacjak's appointment as well. In a February op-ed for EUObserver, Toby Vogel and Bodo Weber of Berlin-based Democratization Policy wrote that Lajčák 's appointment would be a wrong decision due to Lajčák and Borrell both coming from countries which do not recognize Kosovo. Moreover, they argued that Lajčák has a history of political failure in the Balkans, exhibiting a pro-Serb bias in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as putting his personal interests first.

Last year, the United States appointed Mathew Palmer as Special Representative for the Western Balkans and later, Ambassador Richard Grenell as Special Representative for the Kosovo-Serbia peace talks.

Earlier this year, Grenell secured an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on airline, rail and freight cooperation, at a time when the second year of suspension of EU-mediated talks due to Kosovo's tariffs on Serbian goods had begun.

Since then the European Union has stepped in to make sure it plays its part in the process, which in turn led to the EU Special Representative's official appointment on Friday.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 3, 2020 16:00