Kosovo and Serbia agree how to implement the EU standardization plan | News from the European Union

The tentative deal follows marathon talks between Serb and Kosovar leaders and EU officials in North Macedonia.

Kosovo and Serbia tentatively agreed how to implement a European Union-sponsored plan to normalize their ties, according to the bloc’s top diplomat, though the leaders of the two nations said disagreements persisted.

Saturday’s agreement came after 12-hour talks between Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and EU officials on the implementation of the normalization plan, which both sides agreed to in Brussels on last month.

The two leaders held separate meetings with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell ahead of a three-way session in the North Macedonian city of Ohrid.

“We have a deal,” Borrell tweeted after the meeting.

“Kosovo and Serbia agreed on the Implementation Annex of the Agreement on the path towards normalization of relations,” he said.

This means “practical steps on what needs to be done, when, by whom and how,” he added at a news conference.

Kosovo and Serbia have been in EU-backed talks for almost 10 years since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, nearly a decade after the war ended Serb rule. But Serbia still views Kosovo as a breakaway province and clashes between its Balkan neighbors have fueled fears of a return to conflict.

Both countries hope to join the EU one day, and have been told they must first mend their relations. Resolving the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo has become more important as war rages in Ukraine and fears grow in the West that Russia is trying to stir up instability in the volatile Balkans, where it has historical influence.

The EU plan calls for the two countries to maintain good neighborly relations and recognize each other’s official documents and national symbols. But the plan, drafted by France and Germany and supported by the United States, does not explicitly call for mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia.

If implemented, it would prevent Belgrade from blocking Kosovo’s attempts to seek membership in the United Nations and other international organizations.

Although he tentatively agreed with the EU plan reached last month, Serbia’s populist President Vucic appeared to back down on some of his points after pressure from far-right groups, who consider Kosovo the cradle of Serbian state and the orthodox religion.

Vucic said on Thursday that he “will not sign anything” at the Ohrid meeting and earlier vowed never to recognize Kosovo or allow its UN membership. He repeated on Saturday that he has not signed the implementation document, although Kurti insisted on it.

He said the parties have not agreed on all points, but “despite the differences, we had a decent conversation.”

He added: “In the coming months, we are faced with serious and difficult tasks.”

On the other hand, Kurti complained that Vucic did not sign the implementation agreement on Saturday.

“This is a de facto recognition between Kosovo and Serbia” as Serbia has not yet signed the deal, he said, adding: “Now it is up to the EU to make it internationally binding.”

Borrell said the EU will now forcefully require both sides to meet their obligations if they want to join the bloc, warning there would be consequences otherwise.

He also referred to a proposed association of Serb municipalities in Kosovo, which would give greater autonomy to Serb-majority municipalities, a long-disputed issue.

“Kosovo agreed to start immediately, and when I say immediately, I mean immediately, the negotiations with the European Union facilitated the dialogue on the establishment of a specific agreement and guarantees to guarantee an adequate level of self-management for the Serb communities in Kosovo” . said the senior EU diplomat.

Kosovo is a former province of Serbia with an ethnic Albanian majority. The 1998-1999 war broke out when ethnic Albanian separatists rebelled against the Serbian government, and Belgrade responded with a brutal crackdown.

Some 13,000 people died, mostly ethnic Albanians.

In 1999, a NATO military intervention forced Serbia to withdraw from the territory. Kosovo declared its independence in 2008.

Tensions have been simmering ever since. Kosovo’s independence is recognized by many Western countries, but Belgrade opposes it with the backing of Russia and China. EU-brokered talks have made little progress in recent years.

Serbia has maintained close ties with its traditional Slavic ally Russia despite the war in Ukraine, partly because of Moscow’s opposition to Kosovo’s independence and a possible veto on its UN membership in the Security Council.