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Serb Cabinet Backs Accord With Kosovo Before Key EU Report

Serbia’s government formally backed an April 19 agreement with Kosovo that improves ties with the breakaway province and pushes Serbia closer to a start date for European Union membership talks.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic’s Cabinet “accepted the first agreement on the principles that regulate the normalization of ties achieved in the dialogue on Kosovo” in Brussels, the government’s press office said in an e-mailed statement today.

The commission “recommended to EU member states that negotiations be opened with Serbia on EU accession and with Kosovo on its Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU,” the EU’s executive arm said in its own statement.

Dacic and Kosovar Premier Thaci initialed an EU-mediated agreement in principle on improving ties and have until June 15 to work out power sharing in telecommunications and energy and make progress in clarifying the fate of people missing on both sides since the 1998-99 war.

The Serbian dinar traded at 111.4404 to the euro at 2:45 p.m. in Belgrade or 0.03 percent down on the day, wiping out morning gains of 0.3 percent at the start of trading session, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The index of 15 most-actively traded assets on the Belgrade Stock Exchange gained 1.01 percent to close at 572.10 points. Bond yields dropped.

Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule’s recommendations “mark a decisive break with the past and a common step towards a European future,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who brokered the pact between Serbia and Kosovo, said in a press release.

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.

Fule said “Serbia and Kosovo have proved they can both focus on the future rather than staying entangled in the past. Our recommendations today are therefore clear: both Serbia and Kosovo deserve to move on decisively in their EU perspectives.”

Both nations need deeper EU ties after the wars stunted the region’s transition from communism.

Serbia backed the accord a day after Kosovar Premier Hashim Thaci presented the accord to 120-seat parliament, where 89 lawmakers backed and five opposed the agreement. The Serbian Parliament is due to ratify the deal on April 24 in Belgrade.

“I want to congratulate the European Union and the leadership of the president and of Lady Catherine Ashton for the tremendous effort in diplomacy which helped to bring the Serbia-Kosovo agreement, which is really important,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during a visit with European Commission President Jose Barroso today.

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