Serbia and Kosovo agree to implement EU-backed deal to normalize relations
By Fatos Bytyci
OHRID, North Macedonia (Reuters) – Kosovo and Serbia have reached an agreement to implement a European Union-backed deal to normalize ties, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said late Saturday, although the two leaders said disagreements remain .
Kosovo and Serbia have been in EU-backed talks for nearly 10 years since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after war ended Serbian rule. But Serbia still regards Kosovo as a breakaway province, and flare-ups between its Balkan neighbors have stoked fears of a return to conflict.
Saturday’s deal came after 12-hour talks between Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and EU officials over the implementation of the deal agreed by both sides in Brussels last month.
The two leaders met separately with Borrell ahead of a tripartite meeting in North Macedonia.
“Kosovo and Serbia have agreed on the implementation annex of the agreement on the way to normalizing relations between them,” he told reporters after meeting the two heads of state in the north Macedonian city of Ohrid.
Vucic said at a press conference that the parties did not agree on all points.
“Despite differences, we had decent conversations,” he said.
At another press conference, Kurti said, “This is a de facto recognition between Kosovo and Serbia” as Serbia has not yet signed the agreement.
Borrell said the EU will now urge both sides to meet their commitments if they want to join the bloc, warning there would be consequences if they did not.
He also addressed a proposed amalgamation of Serb communities in Kosovo that would give more autonomy to Serb-majority communities, a long-debated issue.
“Kosovo has agreed to immediately – and when I say immediately, I mean immediately – start negotiations with the European Union to facilitate dialogue on the establishment of a specific agreement and guarantees to ensure an adequate level of self-government for the Serb communities in the country Secure Kosovo,” said the top EU diplomat.
In the annex to the implementation of the agreement published on Saturday evening, the EU undertook to organize a donor conference within 150 days to set up an investment and financial aid package for Kosovo and Serbia.
(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold, Ivana Sekularac, and Andrew Gray; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, and Josie Kao)