Serbia Backs Kosovo Implementation Plan in Quest for EU Date

Serbia backed a decision to implement a political agreement with its breakaway Kosovo province and moved a step closer to getting a date to start European Union membership talks next month.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic informed the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that his 11-month old Cabinet backed the implementation pact “as a status neutral document,” the government’s press office said in an e-mailed statement after the Cabinet’s meeting late yesterday in the capital Belgrade.

Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, agreed on May 22 on a plan to carry out their April 19 preliminary, EU-mediated pact to normalize ties after years of conflict and tension, paving the way for reconciliation and talks on joining the EU. Serbs in northern Kosovo haven’t accepted the deal.

Endorsing the execution plan and making initial steps to fulfill it are key to win the support of Germany, which wants “substantial and visible” results before backing any decision of the Council of the EU to grant Serbia a start date and to begin pre-accession talks with Kosovo. The Council meets on June 28, a day after a debate in the German lower house in Berlin, the Bundestag.

“The implementation plan is designed to solve problems on the ground and to ensure rapid progress of both Serbia and Kosovo towardsthe European Union,” Ashton said in an e-mailed statement today. “It represents a further step forward in the EU-facilitated dialogue and it is without prejudice to the positions of the two sides on the Kosovo status.”

Police Commander

Serbia and Kosovo 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 nomination of a regional police commander for the north of Kosovo” in line with powers of the association of municipalities will “make a visible contribution to building trust and to stabilization of political conditions” as well as improved safety across Kosovo, the government said in the statement. Serbia had insisted that Kosovo allows Serbs who live in the north to have their own police and judiciary systems.

Serbia and Kosovo have been at loggerheads since the wars of the 1990s that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. The Serbs, who consider Kosovo the cradle of their nation and culture, have vowed never to accept its independence, declared unilaterally in 2008. Kosovo is recognized by more than 90 countries worldwide, including the U.S. and 22 of the EU’s 27 member states.

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