News / Europe

Serbia, Kosovo Close In on Deal to End Ethnic Partition

Kosovo Security Force members parade in the center of Pristina marking the 5th anniversary since Kosovo seceded from Serbia, Feb. 17, 2013.
Kosovo Security Force members parade in the center of Pristina marking the 5th anniversary since Kosovo seceded from Serbia, Feb. 17, 2013.
Reuters
— Serbia and Kosovo said on Thursday they were close to a deal to end the ethnic partition of the former Serbian province with Belgrade coming under increasing pressure from the European Union as it nears a decision on opening membership talks.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said the two sides were "never closer" to settling their differences, after separate talks with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Pristina and Belgrade.

The clock is now ticking till a mid-April progress report by Ashton that will decide whether the EU launches membership talks with Serbia, a major milestone in the country's recovery from Yugoslavia's bloody collapse and a vital signal of stability to much-needed investors.

Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO bombs wrested control of the territory from late Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic to halt a brutal counter-insurgency war.

But Belgrade retained de facto control over a small Serb pocket of northern Kosovo, and says it will never recognize its former southern province as a sovereign state.

The status of the Serb north, where Kosovo's government has very little presence, is at the heart of EU-mediated negotiations aimed at "normalizing ties" between the two.

Progress on the issue will decide whether the EU opens accession talks with Serbia in June, a process that would drive reform and potentially lure investors to the biggest economy in the former Yugoslavia.

"Right now we are at the beginning of the end in reaching an agreement to normalize relations between the state of Kosovo and Serbia," Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a former guerrilla commander, told reporters after meeting Ashton in Pristina.

"We're optimistic that things are moving in the right direction," he said.

In Belgrade, Nikolic said the EU might circulate a "non-paper" ahead of the latest direct talks between Thaci and Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic in Brussels on March 20.

"We've never been so close to an agreement on how to organize life in Kosovo and to make it possible for all residents there to live as people should live," Nikolic said.

In a significant U-turn in official policy, Serbia's nine-month-old coalition government, an alliance last in power under Milosevic, has offered to recognize the authority of Thaci's government over northern Kosovo, in exchange for autonomy for the Serbs living there.

But the two sides have been at odds for months over the powers any Serb institutions in the north would have.

"We want compromise, but we won't accept humiliation," Dacic said after he and Nikolic met Ashton. "That's our clear message ahead of March 20."

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid