News / Europe

Serbia Rejects Kosovo Deal, Begs EU for More Time

A woman walks past a graffiti depicting part of the Serbian coat of arms in the northern Serb dominated, part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, April 3, 2013.
A woman walks past a graffiti depicting part of the Serbian coat of arms in the northern Serb dominated, part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, April 3, 2013.
Reuters
Serbia on Monday rejected a European Union-brokered plan to tackle the ethnic partition of its former province Kosovo, a move that could hurt Belgrade's hopes of starting membership talks with the bloc.

But the coalition government called for the "urgent" continuation of negotiations to reach an accord, with the EU set to consider this month whether to recommend the start of accession talks with Serbia.

Membership talks would mark a major milestone in Serbia's recovery from a decade of war and isolation under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic and provide a much- needed boost for its ailing economy, still the biggest in the former Yugoslavia.

The EU had set a Tuesday deadline for Kosovo and Serbia to accept the principles on the table after talks ended last week without result. Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia in a 1998-99 war and declared independence in 2008, had already said it was ready to sign the deal.

European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has mediated in negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo over the past six months, urged Belgrade to make a last push for a deal.

"I believe that all the elements for an agreement on northern Kosovo are on the table ... I regret the decision of the Serbian government to reject the proposals and call on them to make a last effort to reach an agreement, for the benefit of their people,'' she said in a statement.

Facing a potential backlash from hardliners and a warning from the influential Orthodox Church, Serbia balked, saying the offer fell far short of the broad autonomy it wants for a small Serb enclave of majority ethnic Albanian Kosovo.

"The government of Serbia calls for the urgent continuation of dialogue ... with the mediation of the EU in order to reach a lasting solution,'' the government said in a declaration read out by Prime Minister Ivica Dacic at a meeting of his cabinet.

"The government of Serbia cannot accept the proposed solution as it does not guarantee the safety and human rights of Serbs in Kosovo,'' he said.

The cabinet voted unanimously to adopt the declaration, which would be sent to Ashton.

More talks?

Ashton is due to issue a progress report on the situation on April 16 that will likely decide whether the EU launches Serbia on the long path of accession talks this year.

Ashton had said an inconclusive 12-hour meeting last week between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia would be the last.

But her statement on Monday appeared to suggest she would be prepared to host more talks if there was hope of an agreement.

"They [Serbia] need to come up with very clear ideas of what they want," an EU source said.

Neighboring Croatia, Serbia's wartime foe during the collapse of Yugoslavia, is set to become the EU's 28th member on July 1, but Belgrade's progress has long been hamstrung by its refusal to come to terms with Kosovo's secession.

The West wants Belgrade to cede its fragile hold on a northern, Serb-populated pocket of Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians are the 90-percent majority - an ethnic partition that frequently flares into violence and has frustrated NATO plans to cut back its now 6,000-strong Kosovo peacekeeping force.

In a major U-turn in policy, Serbia has offered to recognise the authority of the Pristina government over the entire territory of Kosovo, but wants broad autonomy for the 50,000 Serbs living in the north.

Full details of the EU-brokered proposal have not yet been made public, but Belgrade made clear it fell short of its demands, particularly that the north control its own police and judiciary.

Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 when NATO launched 11 weeks of air strikes to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces waging a brutal counter-insurgency campaign under Milosevic.

Considered by many Serbs as the cradle of their nation and Orthodox Christian faith, the territory of 1.7 million people declared independence in 2008 and has been recognised by more than 90 countries, including the United States and 22 of the EU's 27 members.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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 Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
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