Ser­bia and Kosovo hail ‘land­mark’ agree­ments

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY JO­VAN MATIC

Ser­bia and Kosovo voiced sat­is­fac­tion Wed­nes­day with an EUbro­kered deal that marked a ma­jor step for­ward in nor­mal­iz­ing ties be­tween the for­mer foes, and boosted hopes of faster ac­ces­sion to the Euro­pean Union.

“We have gained more than we hoped for,” Ser­bian Prime Min­is­ter Alek­san­dar Vu­cic told na­tional broad­caster RTS of Tues­day’s agree­ment, which was me­di­ated in Brus­sels.

His Kosovo coun­ter­part Isa Mustafa said the agree­ment was con­sid­ered “a great suc­cess, a suc­cess that will al­low full sovereignty over the ter­ri­tory of Kosovo, in­clud­ing the north” where eth­nic Serbs make up the ma­jor­ity.

Some 120,000 eth­nic Serbs live in im­pov­er­ished Kosovo, where 90 per­cent of the 1.8 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion are eth­nic Al­ba­ni­ans.

A key part of the deal is a plan to cre­ate an as­so­ci­a­tion of Serb-run mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties within Kosovo, al­low­ing for greater au­ton­omy, as well as a ju­di­ciary in the north that would be ac­cept­able for both eth­nic groups.

In their talks the two sides also struck deals on the is­sues of energy, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and the Mitro­vica bridge, which di­vides the north­ern city along eth­nic lines and has been a flash­point area since the end of the 1998-1999 war.

Ser­bia and Kosovo have had dif­fi­cult re­la­tions ever since the con­flict, which ended af­ter Ser­bian forces with­drew from the ter­ri­tory fol­low­ing an 11-week NATO

bomb­ing cam­paign.

Road to EU Ac­ces­sion

In 2013 Pristina and Bel­grade signed an EU-bro­kered agree­ment to nor­mal­ize ties which en­abled Bel­grade to start EU ac­ces­sion talks a year later.

But no chap­ters in ne­go­ti­a­tions sub­se­quently opened as the process of im­prov­ing re­la­tions stalled, mostly due to early leg­isla­tive elec­tions in Ser­bia in March last year, and three months later in Kosovo.

EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini, who bro­kered the talks, said the deal “rep­re­sents land­mark achieve­ments in the nor­mal­iza­tion process,” while Vu­cic said he now saw “no more ob­sta­cles” to start­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions over Ser­bia’s EU ac­ces­sion.

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