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

Ebola Brings Sickness, Fear, Anger

Cornell University Professor Stacey Langwick considers cultural, social aspects of outbreak More

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Violent Quarantine Clashes Hamper Liberia's Struggle to Contain Ebola

Anger, misinformation and mistrust of government hampering efforts to contain the deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid