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news 10 Oct 12

Brussels May Call Kosovo, Serbia for High Level Talks

Hashim Thaci and Ivica Dacic may soon sit at the same negotiating table, an EU diplomat has suggested.

Fatmir Aliu BIRN Pristina

Senior officials from Kosovo and Serbia have agreed to meet at a higher political level to resolve their disputes and outstanding issues, with the facilitation of the European Union, a diplomat from Brussels has told BIRN.

The suggestion that such talks may be near was made as Kosovo prepares to receive its first Feasibility Study, which will be released by the European Commission on Wednesday. Pristina is expected to receive a set of short-term conditions to be fulfilled before it starts negotiations with Brussels on a Stabilization and Association Agreement, SAA.

The European Commission launched the study in March to determine whether Kosovo is ready to sign the SAA, which is the first step on the long road to Brussels.

A source from Brussels says that the feasibility study will call upon the authorities in Pristina to implement a set of short-term measures “to convince the EU that the country is fully prepared.”

Kosovo will receive the study as the other countries in the Balkans receive their annual progress reports, which outline the progress they have made towards EU integration over the past year.

In mid-September EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and President Atifete Jahjaga. Ashton also met separately with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic. Both meetings took place in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“This represents a breakthrough in the context of Kosovo-Serbia relations,” a senior official from Brussels said on Tuesday.

“...regarding Lady Ashton and her counterparts, these meetings were relevant and my understanding is that she came back to Brussels with the sense that work can continue. I don’t know how this will develop but there are more signs of moving the dialogue onto a more political level,” the diplomat said.

Belgrade and Pristina started EU-mediated talks in Brussels in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence. Serbia has refused to recognise the declaration.

So far, at the technical level, the two sides have reached deals on freedom of movement, mutual recognition of university diplomas, on Kosovo's representation at regional meetings, and on integrated border-crossings management.

But the parties have failed to honour all of the deals reached. Brussels has insisted that without the prior implementation of the agreements, no political talks can be expected to start.

Therefore EU diplomats in Brussels have indicated that more time may be needed before high-level talks-- including those between the prime ministers or presidents-- can be set.

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