Kosovo deal opens door to EU accession talks for Serbia

Tánaiste praises ‘political courage’ of Belgrade and Pristina in agreeing deal

Protesters shout slogans against the the EU-brokered Kosovo accord and call for a referendum on the deal as they march in Belgrade yesterday. Reuters/Djordje Kojadinovic

Protesters shout slogans against the the EU-brokered Kosovo accord and call for a referendum on the deal as they march in Belgrade yesterday. Reuters/Djordje Kojadinovic

Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 06:00

The European Commission has recommended opening EU accession talks with Serbia and Kosovo, following a landmark agreement brokered in Brussels last Friday.

The Serbian parliament yesterday agreed to back the agreement to normalise Serbia-Kosovo ties, after Kosovo’s parliament in the capital Pristina voted to accept the 15-point deal on Sunday. A final decision on a date for the possible commencement of accession negotiations is expected to be made by EU leaders in June.

Speaking after a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg yesterday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore described the agreement reached on Friday as a “game-changer”, and praised the “political courage” shown by Serbia and Kosovo in reaching the agreement.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Serbia does not recognise its neighbour as an independent state. In addition, five EU member states – Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Romania — do not recognise Kosovo’s sovereignty.

Speaking after the meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state was not a precondition for the commencement of accession talks, noting that it was a matter for sovereign countries. However, she welcomed the agreement as an important step.

“This is something we have been working on for some time as a presidency. We are very pleased with the outcome but the next step is for Kosovo and Serbia to implement the agreement.”

While the agreement was welcomed across the political spectrum, substantial difficulties still remain. The notion of Kosovan independence is a highly sensitive issue in Serbia and the agreement does not include any acceptance by Serbia of Kosovo’s sovereignty.

Specific details of the deal may also prove contentious, such as the possible recognition of a Serb-majority bloc in northern Kosovo that may have autonomy in areas such as education, health and planning.

Separately, foreign affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg agreed to ease oil sanctions in Syria, in a bid to respond to the ongoing crisis in the country. The decision to ease the sanctions, introduced in November 2011, was taken to “help the civilian population and support the opposition”, the European commission said.

The move came amid fresh reports from activists of further killings of civilians on the outskirts of Damascus.

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