The European Union urged Serbia to make a final attempt at a political settlement with Kosovo as a deadline looms for an agreement that would allow the former Yugoslav republic to open EU membership talks.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, who’s met with Kosovar Premier Hashim Thaci eight times in six months with no result, needs to continue the talks because it’s in his citizens’ best interest to forge a deal that would start official negotiations in June. The EU is preparing a report on the Balkan country’s readiness, which includes reaching a solution with Kosovo, for April 16.
“This needs to be an agreement between the two sides, it is not for the European Union to impose it,” Ashton said in an e-mailed statement. “I regret the decision of the Serbian government to reject the proposals and call on them to make a last effort to reach an agreement for the benefit of their people.”
Dacic’s nine-month old Cabinet, dominated by his Socialist Party and former nationalists of the Serbian Progressive Part, rejected a pact with Kosovo over the weekend after insisting that a special police force and court system for Kosovar Serbs be set up. Serbia wants to “urgently continue dialogue” with Kosovo under EU mediation, Dacic said in Belgrade yesterday.
Serbia and Kosovo have been at loggerheads since the wars of the 1990s that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. Kosovo is recognized by the U.S. and 22 of the EU’s 27 members.
While Serbia seeks a start date for entry talks, Kosovo is in line to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first formal step toward membership in the bloc. Both need deeper EU ties after the wars stunted the region’s transition from communism.
“I hope that Kosovo and Serbia will not miss the opportunity to put the past behind them and move forward into the future,” Ashton said. “I hope I will be leading the discussion in the EU over the next few days in support of a real step forward by both Serbia and Kosovo towards their European future.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Gordana Filipovic in Belgrade at firstname.lastname@example.org
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