PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s president on Saturday announced a one-year extension of the mandate of the European Union’s mission to ensure the rule of law in Kosovo.

Hashim Thaci said in a statement the extension was made following an exchange of letters with Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy chief.

The EU asked for a one-year extension of EULEX, because the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to hold meetings to review the bloc's missions, Thaci said.

After Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008, the EU mission there was set up as the largest civilian mission under the bloc's common security and defense policy. It scaled down operations in 2018 from an executive to a monitoring and advisory one.

A previously-negotiated two-year mandate has gradually decreased, with many areas being transferred to local authorities.

Kosovo’s Parliament declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO conducted a 78-day airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians. Most Western states have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but not Serbia.

Brussels has since 2011 served as moderator between Serbia and Kosovo, telling them they must normalize relations in order to advance toward membership in the bloc.

Following a 20-month stalled negotiations Pristina and Belgrade leaders will hold a virtual meeting on Sunday.

Relations between the two countries remain tense.