News / Europe

EU Brokers Kosovo Deal, Opens Door to Serbia Accession

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (C) poses with Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dacic (L) and Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 19, 2013.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (C) poses with Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dacic (L) and Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 19, 2013.
Reuters
— Serbia agreed to cede its last remaining foothold in the country's former province of Kosovo on Friday, striking an historic accord to settle relations in exchange for talks on joining the European Union.

The deal, brokered by the EU, capped six months of delicate negotiations and marks a milestone for the region's recovery from the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

If implemented, it could unlock Serbia's potential as the largest market in the former Yugoslavia, taking the country from international pariah under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic to the threshold of mainstream Europe.

"And the white smoke is out! Habemus pactum! Happy,'' Kosovo's EU's integration minister, Vlora Citaku, tweeted after the prime ministers of both sides initialled a two-page plan outlining an end to the ethnic partition of Kosovo between its Albanian majority and a small, Belgrade-backed pocket of some 50,000 Serbs in the north.

The schism has dogged regional stability and development since Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008.

The Kosovo Serbs will almost certainly resist in a region bristling with weapons and deep animosity, and were already demanding a referendum on the deal.

In exchange for limited autonomous powers for the Serb north, Serbia agreed not to block Kosovo's path to eventual membership of the EU - a concession Kosovo hailed as  recognition of independence.

"This agreement is de-jure, legal recognition by Serbia, which will open the way for Kosovo to join international organisations,'' Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who led a guerrilla insurgency against Milosevic's forces in 1998-99, told reporters.

Serbia says it will never recognise as sovereign a territory it considers the cradle of the Serb nation.

But Friday's deal reflects a sea change in official policy and a realisation in Serbia that it has been swimming against the tide at the expense of its economy.

Neighboring Croatia, a wartime foe of Serbia during Yugoslavia's demise, joins the EU on July 1, a sobering reminder for many Serbs of just how far they have fallen behind.

Kosovo is recognised by over 90 countries, including the United States and 22 members of the 27-nation EU that Serbia wants to join. But it has yet to join the United Nations, something Serbian ally and U.N. veto-holder Russia holds the key to.

Diplomats said the accord was likely to win a provisional green light on Monday from the EU for the start of membership talks with Serbia. A formal decision would come in June.

Deal tough to enforce

The accession process could help unlock the country's potential as the largest market in the former Yugoslavia and lure much-needed foreign investment to its struggling economy.

"It's very important that now what we are seeing is a step away from the past and for both of them a step closer to Europe,'' said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who brokered the deal.

Serbian officials said it remained subject to approval by "state bodies'' back in Belgrade. "We will inform the EU by letter on Monday whether we accept the deal or not,'' Prime Minister Ivica Dacic told reporters.

Western diplomats said there was very little chance of Serbia reversing course, but cautioned that the real test lay in the implementation.

Germany, in particular, "has been very clear on the importance of practical implementation, so that they won't be burned,'' said a senior Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kosovo's Thaci said: ``This agreement will help us heal wounds of the past, if we have the wisdom and knowledge to implement it in practice.''

Under the terms, the north of Kosovo will be absorbed into the legal framework of the country but retain limited autonomy in areas of health, education, policing and courts.

In a sign of possible resistance to come, Serb municipal lawmakers in northern Kosovo demanded a referendum on whether Kosovo should be part of Serbia or Belgrade should accept the conditions set down by the EU to clinch accession talks.

Steeped in history and myth for Serbs, Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1999, when NATO carried out 11 weeks of air strikes to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian military forces under Milosevic waging a brutal counter-insurgency campaign.

Kosovo became a ward of the United Nations, but Belgrade retained de facto control over the northern Serb pocket. The partition has frequently flared into violence and frustrated NATO's hopes of cutting back a costly peace force that still numbers 6,000 soldiers.

"Likely to be taken as a positive by the market, as this will further anchor reforms in Serbia, albeit accession negotiations are likely to be very long,'' said Tim Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid