News / Europe

EU Presses Serbia, Kosovo for Historic Accord

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci talks with journalists as he arrives for a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the European Diplomatic Service headquarters in Brussels, April 17, 2013.
Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci talks with journalists as he arrives for a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the European Diplomatic Service headquarters in Brussels, April 17, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— The European Union summoned Serbia and Kosovo back to Brussels on Thursday, pressing for an historic accord to settle relations between the Balkan foes and open the door to membership talks with Belgrade.

On the table is an agreement to end the ethnic partition of Kosovo five years since it seceded from Serbia, and potentially clear a path to a seat at the United Nations for the last state to emerge from the ashes of federal Yugoslavia.

An accord would mark a seminal moment in the region's recovery from a decade of war in the 1990s and help unlock Serbia's potential as the largest market in the former Yugoslavia.

With the clock ticking to a Monday decision by the EU on whether to recommend the start of accession talks with Serbia, Belgrade on Wednesday balked at demands by its former province for a seat at the United Nations.

Serbia said it would amount to recognition of a territory it considers the cradle of its nation. Kosovo, where 90 percent of the 1.7 million people are ethnic Albanians, said the issue was non-negotiable.

Both sides headed home, only for Kosovo to announce that its prime minister, former guerrilla commander Hashim Thaci, had turned back from Slovenia's Ljubljana airport at the request of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"Delegations back to Brussels! Dialogue to continue tomorrow!” Kosovo's European Integration Minister Vlora Citaku said on Twitter.

Serbia's leadership was silent, until Prime Minister Ivica Dacic emerged from hours of consultations with his allies to say he too would return. “This represents a huge effort given that we only came back from Brussels today,” he told Serbia's Beta news agency.

Any agreement on Friday could mark the culmination of six months of delicate negotiations between Dacic and Thaci, mediated by Ashton.

Kosovo broke away from Belgrade in 1999 after 78 days of NATO air strikes halted the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces waging a counter-insurgency campaign under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

Key to Stability

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and is recognized by more than 90 countries, including the United States and 22 of the EU's 27 members.

Dangling the prospect of membership talks, the EU says Serbia must help to end an ethnic partition of Kosovo between the Albanian majority and a northern pocket of some 50,000 Serbs where Belgrade still has a fragile grip.

The two sides have edged towards a deal on the status of the north, including what autonomous powers it might wield. But negotiations on Wednesday, billed as make-or-break, stalled over Point 14 of the plan. That calls for Serbia to stop obstructing Kosovo's accession to international organizations, implicitly the United Nations.

“Removing that point would undermine the entire agreement,” Bekim Collaku, an adviser to Thaci, told Reuters. “What kind of normalization are we talking about if after this deal Serbia will continue blocking Kosovo on its Euro-Atlantic path?”

Serbia's Dacic said all was not lost, but accused Thaci of trying to sink the deal.

“Serbia is supposed to let Kosovo be a member of international organizations? Well then let's just write down that we recognize Kosovo as independent,” he told reporters. “We couldn't accept that, and we will never accept that.”

Settling their relations would go a long way to stabilizing the Western Balkans. Kosovo's ethnic partition frequently flares into violence and has frustrated NATO's plans to cut back a peace force that still numbers 6,000 soldiers.

The EU wants to anchor Serbia in accession talks, driving reform and luring investors to a country of over seven million people. Just as it was the main agitator of the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart, Belgrade today holds the key to regional stability and development.

Ashton is due to report back to EU governments before they make their recommendation on accession talks for Serbia on Monday. That decision would then be finalized in June.

The differences between the two sides are “narrow and very shallow”, Ashton said after Wednesday's talks. “We have some hours left.”

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid