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Ashton Cites 'Concrete Progress' In Kosovo-Serbia Talks

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, EU Foreign Policy Representative Catherine Ashton, and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (left to right) in Brussels after their overnight meeting.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says Serbia and Kosovo have made “concrete progress” toward normalizing their relations.

Ashton was speaking after meeting overnight in Brussels with the Serbian and Kosovo prime ministers, Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci.

The gathering was held ahead of a decision by EU leaders expected in a week, by June 28, on whether enough reconciliation progress has been made for Serbia to start EU accession talks, and for Kosovo to start negotiations on an EU association pact.

"Good work has been done and concrete progress has been achieved," Ashton told reporters early on June 21. "The prime ministers today went further and agreed a number of open issues, in particular in the field of justice, police, and upcoming municipal elections."

She added: "With a view to the meeting of the council and the European Council next week, I will now inform the member states about the progress in the implementation of the April agreement, confirming that concrete steps towards a visible and sustainable improvement of relations between the two sides were taken."

Serbia and Kosovo signed a deal in April aimed at implementing power-sharing between Serb-majority areas of northern Kosovo and the ethnic Albanian-led Kosovo central government.

"We think that there has been good progress in this meeting in terms of the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia and we have agreed that the next meeting will take place on 8 July," Thaci said.

Kosovo's independence is recognized by more than 90 countries, including the United States and the majority of EU states, since it declared sovereignty in 2008.

But Serbia has vowed not to recognize Kosovar independence, with staunch ally Russia doing the same.

Backed by Belgrade, Kosovar Serbs have for years resisted integration with the rest of Kosovo.

The Serbian and ethnic Albanian sides have avoided directly addressing the thorny issue of recognition in a bid to move toward greater integration with the EU.

Reports say the new normalization deal calls for the Serb minority to retain some autonomy, such as being able to choose police chiefs but that the central Kosovo government is to hold overall control over the police and judiciary.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in the 1999 NATO air war that ended a Serbian offensive against ethnic Albanians.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, dpa, and AFP
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