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 Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

Al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs