Kosovo-Serbia deal reached, EU foreign policy chief says

Kosovo-Serbia deal reached, EU foreign policy chief says

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic arrives in Ohrid on March 18, 2023 for his speech after meetings as part of the Kosovo-Serbia talks. PHOTO AFP OHRID, North Macedonia -- Kosovo and Serbia reached an agreement on a European Union-backed deal to normalize ties, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said late on Saturday, though the two leaders said disagreements remain.

Kosovo and Serbia have been in EU backed talks for almost 10 years since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after the war ended Serbian rule. Serbia still regards Kosovo as a breakaway province and the flare-ups between the Balkan neighbours have sparked fears of a return to conflict.

The deal was reached on Saturday after 12 hours of talks between Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and EU officials had agreed to implement the deal, which both sides had agreed to in Brussels last month.

The two leaders held separate meetings with Borrell before a three-way session in North Macedonia.

ALSO READ: Thousands in Belgrade protested against the Serbia-Kosovo deal.

After meeting both leaders in the North Macedonian town of Ohrid, he told reporters that Kosovo and Serbia agreed on the implementation of the annex of the agreement on the path to normalization of relations between them.

Vucic told a news conference that the parties have not agreed on all points.

He said that we had a good conversation despite differences.

Kurti said at a news conference that this is a de facto recognition between Kosovo and Serbia, since Serbia has not yet signed the agreement.

Borrell said the EU will forcefully demand both sides to fulfill their obligations if they want to join the bloc, but warned there would be consequences if they don't.

He also touched on a proposed association of Serb municipalities in Kosovo, which would give more autonomy to Serb majority municipalities, a long disputed topic.

READ MORE: PM: Kosovo accepts the peace deal with Serbia, with caveats.

Kosovo has agreed to launch immediately and immediately - and when I am saying immediately, I mean immediately - negotiations with the European Union facilitated dialogue on establishing a specific arrangement and guarantees to ensure an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian communities in Kosovo, the EU top diplomat said.

The EU committed within 150 days to set up an investment and financial aid package for Kosovo and Serbia in the annex on the implementation of the agreement, which was published on Saturday evening.