EU: Kosovo, Serbia agree on practical issues

AP News
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Posted: Jul 02, 2011 3:34 PM
EU: Kosovo, Serbia agree on practical issues

Serbia and Kosovo have struck deals on several practical issues that will make life easier for citizens _ the first accords between the two countries since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, officials said Saturday.

"Agreements were reached in the areas of civil registry, freedom of movement and acceptance of university and school diplomas," said a statement by the European Union, which mediated the talks.

The agreements are the first between Serbia and Kosovo since the former province unilaterally declared independence.

The talks have so far been restricted to practical nuts-and-bolts matters, but have not touched on more substantive issues such as mutual recognition. Kosovo rejects any talks that question its independence, while Serbia _ which considers Kosovo the cradle of its statehood and religion _ refuses to recognize that independence.

The EU initiated the first direct negotiations between the two sides in March and officials hope they can mediate more agreements in the coming months.

The new accord will allow Kosovo's citizens to cross into Serbia's territory with personal IDs, but not with the new Kosovo passports. It also covers car insurance and vehicle license plates.

This would permit Kosovo's citizens to travel overland to the EU through Serbia, instead of using the much more circuitous route via Montenegro and Croatia.

Saturday's meeting brought the issues of telecoms, land registers, customs procedures and energy closer to agreement, the EU statement said.

Borislav Stefanovic, who headed the Serbian delegation, insisted that the agreements did not imply recognition of an independent Kosovo.

Kosovo has been recognized by 76 nations, including 22 of the EU's 27 member states. But Serbia has successfully blocked its membership in the United Nations, where many countries share its rejection of unilateral declarations of independence by separatist regions.

Washington and many in the EU insist Kosovo's statehood is a special case, because it is the result of a brutal Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign against Albanian separatists that led to an international administration in 1999, when NATO ejected Serb forces.

NATO still maintains about 5,000 troops in Kosovo to provide security more than a decade after that war.