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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid