Serbia and Kosovo accept plan for normalizing ties under EU mediation

Balkans
Tue, 28 Feb 2023 9:06 GMT
The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have endorsed the European Union's proposal on normalizing relations between the two countries.
Serbia and Kosovo accept plan for normalizing ties under EU mediation

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have endorsed the European Union's proposal on normalizing relations between the two countries.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti have accepted an EU proposal to normalize their long-tense bilateral relations, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Monday after mediation talks in Brussels.

He said further negotiations were now needed to implement the deal, which could be concluded by the end of March.

According to Borrell, both sides vowed not to take unilateral measures that could lead to tensions and jeopardize the agreement. Vučić and Kurti had shown responsible behaviour, he said.

"This agreement is above all for the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia," Borrell said. Among other things, he added, it provides for people to move freely between Kosovo and Serbia with their passports, identity cards and number plates.

The deal could open up new economic opportunities and attract further investment in Kosovo and Serbia, the EU's top diplomat said. It would also promote trade, as certificates previously required for imports and exports would no longer be necessary. In addition, the rights of Serbs in Kosovo should be better protected.

Kosovo, which today is almost exclusively inhabited by Albanians, used to belong to Serbia. After an armed uprising by Kosovo Albanians and massive human rights violations by Serbian security forces, NATO bombed what was then the rump of Yugoslavia, made up of Serbia and Montenegro, in the spring of 1999.

From 1999 to 2008, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) administered the territory.

In 2008, the country declared itself independent. Serbia still does not recognize this step and claims the territory for itself. Diplomatic efforts by the West have not led to any significant normalization of the situation in recent years.

At the end of 2022 tensions between ethnic Serbs and Albanians in northern Kosovo were on the rise again, following the arrest of a former police officer of Serbian ethnicity on allegations of inciting attacks on electoral commission officials.

In response, militant Serbs erected barricades at a dozen points in the region, blocking access roads to two border crossings into Serbia.

Germany and France had presented a new mediation plan in autumn.

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