Kosovo-Serbia deal will help Belgrade’s EU bid, reports say

GlobalPost

Kosovo has reached a deal with Serbia that will help Serbia’s bid to gain official "candidate" status to join the European Union.

Kosovo, a former Serbian province which declared independence in 2008, will in exchange represent itself in international conferences, according to the Associated Press.

The deal, announced Friday, also spells out the technical details of how Serbia and Kosovo will manage their joint borders and border crossings in the hope it will reduce violence like that seen recently in North Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs refuse to live under rule from Pristina, the Kosovar capital. 

According to The New York Times, Serbia has until now refused to participate in international meetings where representatives of the Kosovo government are present.

"Under the new agreement," the Times wrote, "Serbia will accept international forums in which Kosovo is represented by Kosovars."

However, the word "Republic" will not appear next to the name Kosovo, the agreement states. 

The EU — whose members meet next week to discuss Serbia's candidacy — had wanted Belgrade to make progress in talks with Kosovo a condition of its bid to join the bloc.

An EU meeting in December had declined to offer Serbia an invitation after German peacekeeping troops came under attack by Serbs in North Kosovo, the Times reported.

The AP quoted EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule as calling the agreements "a major step forward."

The US also welcomed the deal, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling VOA that it was a significant step for Kosovo.

"We are fully committed to [Kosovo's] independence, her territorial integrity, her sovereignty and I commend the government under Prime Minister [Hashim] Thaci for its constructive attitude and hard work in the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia," Clinton said.

"The United States has supported this process from the beginning and we know that this is a tough political choice, but it is going to move the people of Kosovo closer to European integration. And we think that's very much in the interest of all Kosovars."

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