EU gives Serbia and Kosovo ‘hours’ to reach breakthrough deal

Negotiations collapse after 14 hours of talks in Brussels

A man passes near Serbian flags in northern part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. Photograph:
Hazir Reka/Reuters

A man passes near Serbian flags in northern part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. Photograph: Hazir Reka/Reuters

Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 10:13

The EU says Serbia and Kosovo have “some hours left” to make a fundamental breakthrough in relations, after the latest marathon round of talks ended in failure and recrimination.

Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, and his Serb counterpart, Ivica Dacic, blamed each other for the collapse of negotiations yesterday morning, when following some 14 hours of talks in Brussels they parted without agreeing on how Serb-dominated northern Kosovo should be run.

On Monday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will report on Serbia’s readiness to start accession talks with Brussels. The report was postponed from this week to give Belgrade and Pristina more time to reach a deal.

Belgrade hopes to be given a date for accession talks to start in June – the last month of Ireland’s EU presidency. Kosovo hopes at the same time to sign an EU stabilisation and association agreement, a key early step on the road towards membership.

“As we prepare for the General Affairs Council on Monday . . . we have some hours left,” Ms Ashton said.

“I hope in that time, that both delegations will reflect on whether they can take the final steps necessary to finish this agreement.”