Serbia Sees Its Path to EU Open After Pact With Kosovo

Serbia resolved most of its disputes with Kosovo in European Union-mediated talks and signed four agreements with the breakaway province that the EU bloc’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini described as “landmark.”

The documents allow Serb-populated municipalities in Kosovo to run some of their affairs, such as education, health care and economic development, with Serbia’s financial backing, Premier Aleksandar Vucic told state broadcaster RTS in Brussels after the talks.

A Serb telecommunication provider and state-run power company Elektroprivreda Srbije may form units to operate in Kosovo, which will get an international country code as Europe’s newest nation.

“There are no more obstacles for starting accession talks” with the EU, Vucic said. “Our European path is open.”

Serbia seeks to follow fellow former Yugoslav republics Slovenia and Croatia into the world’s biggest trading bloc and hopes to gain entry by the end of the decade. Improving ties with the former province is an EU condition for Serbia, which refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 secession.

“In a way, this is recognition of Kosovo independence” by Serbia, broadcaster B92 reported, citing Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci. “Serbia signed the documents under pressure from the international community.”

“Today’s outcome represents landmark achievements in the normalization process” between former foes “and at the same time enable the two sides to advance on their European path,” Mogherini said in a statement on EU’s website. “The EU will actively support the full implementation of this outcome.”

Negotiators failed to agree on power distribution in Kosovo, amid conflicting claims about grid ownership, Vucic said. The document on energy was signed with “disclaimers” by both sides, leaving the issue yet to be resolved, he said.

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