Ivica Dačić, prime minister of Serbia, and Hashim Thaçi, Kosovo's prime minister, met for direct talks in Brussels today (19 October). This was the first meeting of leaders of the two countries since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.
The meeting had been arranged by Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, who afterwards described the atmosphere as “good and constructive”.
“We agreed to continue the dialogue for the normalisation of relations between the two sides and both committed to working together,” Ashton said. “We will meet again soon.”
A diplomat said that the meeting was significant not because of its substance but because the two leaders met, and spoke, directly.
Serbia and Kosovo had been in EU-brokered talks until late last year, but those talks were at a lower, technical level.
Dačić, leader of the Socialist Party founded by late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević, has been prime minister since June. The Socialists did well in a general election earlier in the spring which they contested on a nationalist platform.
In July, Dačić criticised Boris Tadić, who was voted out as Serbia's president in the election, for shaking Thaçi's hand at a conference in Croatia, saying that this gave “legitimacy” to Thaçi at a time when accusations about his war-time behaviour had resurfaced.
Thaçi has come under intense political pressure at home – including from rivals within the ruling PDK – over various cases of alleged corruption. On Wednesday, clashes broke out when police entered the parliament building in Pristina.