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.
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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
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 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 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.

All About America

AppleAndroid