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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid