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Kosovo and Serbia Sign New Accord

Michael Johnson

With help from EU moderators, Serbian and Kosovar negotiators have reached a new agreement to help de-escalate tensions between the two Balkan states. Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and its northern neighbor hope further political and trade normalization could eventually lead to closer ties with the EU.

The new agreement covers a variety of topics including energy and telecommunications. Kosovo, previously a southern province of Serbia, will receive its own telephone country code. The decision implies some level of sovereignty for the breakaway republic, although nothing close to the independence Kosovo wanted recognized. In exchange, ethnic Serb enclaves in northern Kosovo will be given greater legal autonomy and will be able to receive funding directly from Belgrade.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic with EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini (Photo: Council of the EU)

“Today’s outcome represents landmark achievements…” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, whose office facilitated the negotiations. However, talks had been stalled for almost a year in 2014 amid domestic political infighting on both sides.

As part of the Brussels Agreement signed in 2013, both parties formalized outlines for devolution of power from Serbia to Kosovo, without Belgrade’s acceptance of Kosovar independence. Last year, as Serbia began accession talks with the EU, negotiation of specific chapters was delayed at the behest of Germany and others due to the slow pace of reconciliation.

Meanwhile, in another step to further the reconciliation process, Kosovo’s parliament approved the establishment of a special court earlier this month to investigate war crimes from conflicts in the 1990s. Officials hope the inquiry into alleged unlawful killings and abductions by the Kosovo Liberation Army, a paramilitary force turned political party, is an indication of the Kosovo’s improving rule of law.