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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid