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EU Reports On Serbia, Kosovo Delayed


Serbs walk by a sign reading "No to treason" during an anti-European Union protest in Belgrade.
Serbs walk by a sign reading "No to treason" during an anti-European Union protest in Belgrade.
BRUSSELS -- The European Commission has delayed the release of reports on progress made by Serbia and Kosovo in their bids for closer ties with the bloc.

The reports had been scheduled to be released on April 16.

In a statement, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said the reports were not adopted since the EU's foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, had invited the two countries' prime ministers to another round of EU-brokered talks in Brussels on April 17.

Ashton had declared the talks over after Serbia last week rejected an EU-brokered plan for normalizing ties.

Kosovo has an ethnic Albanian majority, but has a Serbian-majority pocket in the north.

Serbia has rejected Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, continuing to regard it as a Serbian province.

However, Serbia has a powerful incentive to return to negotiations, since normalizing relations with Kosovo is seen as critical to its aspirations for becoming a member of the European Union.

Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, speaking in Pristina before leaving for Brussels, said he hoped that the Serbian government would show more flexibility at the new round of negotiations.

"We were close to achieving the agreement [with Serbia] at our last meeting [in Brussels]. Of course there are still differences. I hope and I want to believe that in the past days [since the last meeting] Belgrade had time to think and to take responsibility to be more flexible," he said.

The key disagreement between the two sides remains the degree of autonomy that Serbian-dominated municipalities in the north of Kosovo should get.

Thaci reiterated Kosovo's sovereignty over its entire territory, saying, "Kosovo is an independent, sovereign state and all the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo will be functional in all of its territory."

In a separate development, in a report on Macedonia on April 16 the European Commission said progress had been made despite political tensions and noted "new momentum" in efforts to resolve a long-running issue with Greece over Macedonia's name.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa
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