Serbia kept alive hopes to start European Union entry talks in the near term by agreeing to resume negotiations over ties with Kosovo, its former province which declared independence in 2008.
Prime Minister Ivica Dacic averted a negative verdict on Serbia’s EU readiness by consenting at the last minute to meet Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Brussels tomorrow in an EU-brokered reconciliation bid.
“We are confident that this dialogue on prime ministers’ level will result in a clear agreement,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule told reporters in Strasbourg, France today. He called the hastily scheduled meeting “a good sign.”
Serbia, the largest ex-Yugoslav republic, has seen its EU entry bid stunted by a refusal to acknowledge the independence of Kosovo. The province was pried away from Serbia in NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign, the last of the wars that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia.
“It’s time for Serbia and Kosovo to move on from the past and to look ahead to the common European future. We hope the two leaderships will seize the historical opportunity that lies before them in the very interest of their citizens,” Fule said.
Previous Serbia-Kosovo talks have failed to produce a deal and Serbia rejected an EU-mediated accord on April 8, calling for further negotiations.
A Serbian delegation will travel to Brussels to continue the dialogue “in good faith and with good will” and if an accord contains the elements which are necessary for Serbia, “an agreement could be reached,” Dacic told Serbian state-run newswire Tanjug.
Serbia wants Thaci to Dacic grant Serbs in Kosovo’s northern region decision-making rights on police and the judiciary and to pledge to keep the Kosovo army out of Serbian communities.
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. Both need deeper EU ties after the civil wars stunted the region’s transition from communism.
The European Commission said in December that mending ties with Kosovo is the key for Serbia to win a date to start entry talks.