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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid