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news 19 Apr 13

Kosovo and Serbia Reach Historic Deal in Brussels

Belgrade and Pristina finally agreed on the future of Serb-run North Kosovo in the tenth round of EU-led talks on Friday.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade
Ashton and Dacic in Brussels on Friday

After four hours of EU-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina, the two delegations sealed a long-awaited deal, the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on Friday afternoon.

"I want to congratulate them for their determination over these months and for the courage that they have," Ashton said after the meeting.

The two teams adopted a 15-point draft agreement, presented by Ashton in the ninth round of talks, on April 17. According to Ashton, the text of the agreement has been initialled by both prime ministers.

The draft agreement envisions that the local Serbian community will choose local police commanders, while the composition of the police will reflect the ethnic structure on the ground. The draft also proposes more judges coming from the Serbian minority.

A so-called Association of Serb Municipalities with broad powers will include the four Serb-run northern municipalities of North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok.

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, northern Kosovo has been beyond the Pristina government’s control, while Serbia has continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said: "This is so far the most favourable text for the Serbian side". He said that he initialed the text for which both Serbia and Kosovo will decide in the upcoming days whether to agree to it or reject it.

The agreement “will help us heal the wounds of the past,” Kosovo Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci told media shortly after he signed agreement today in Brussels.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule dubbed the deal historic for Serbia-Kosovo relations, for the entire Western Balkans region and for the EU.

"This ground-breaking agreement would not have been possible without their courage and commitment during difficult negotiations," Fule said in a statement.

He also said that it was crucial now that the political leadership and general public in both Serbia and Kosovo support the agreement and actively help to implement it.

"It is in the interests of all concerned; of the people living in Kosovo, those living in Serbia and the region as a whole," Fule said.

Earlier on Friday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that NATO will do everything to implement an agreement reached by Belgrade and Pristina.

He met Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, on Friday morning to discuss NATO’s role in securing safety for Serbs in Kosovo.

The results of the latest talks are seen as crucial for an important EU report on Serbia’s progress, whose presentation has been postponed.

The delivery of the report, scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed for “a few days” in order to include the newest developments.   

Ashton is expected to inform the European Council of any progress made in Belgrade-Pristina talks on April 22, after which the Council may grant Serbia an accession talks date in June.

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Serbia's progress at which the Rapporteur for Serbia, Jelko Kacin, urged the Council to set a date for the beginning of accession negotiations with Serbia, which he said would "boost reform-oriented forces in the country and help economic recovery".

The EU-mediated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia was launched in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence.

The aim was to normalise relations between the two countries, both of which aspire to EU membership, in the context of Serbia's continued refusal to recognise Kosovo's independence.

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