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Kosovo and Serbia agree on how to implement the normalization plan in the European Union

Kosovo and Serbia agreed in principle on how to implement a A plan sponsored by the European Union to normalize relations between themAccording to the bloc’s highest-ranking diplomat, though, the leaders of the two countries said differences remain.

Saturday’s agreement came after 12 hours of talks between Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and EU officials on implementing the normalization plan agreed by the two sides in Brussels last month.

The two leaders held separate meetings with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell before a trilateral session in the North Macedonian town of Ohrid.

“We have an agreement,” Borrell wrote on Twitter after the meeting.

He said, “Kosovo and Serbia agreed on an appendix to the implementation of the agreement on the course of normalizing relations.”

He added in a press conference that this means “practical steps on what to do, when, by whom and how”.

Kosovo and Serbia have been locked in EU-backed talks for nearly 10 years since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, nearly a decade after the war ended Serbian rule. But Serbia still considers Kosovo a breakaway province blow up Among the neighbors of the Balkans, fears of a return to conflict are the strongest.

Both countries hope to join the European Union one day, and they have been told they must first repair their relations. Resolving the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo has become more important than the raging war in Ukraine, and fears are growing in the West that Russia is trying to foment instability in the restive Balkan region, where it has historical influence.

The EU plan calls for the two countries to maintain good neighborly relations and recognize each other’s official documents and national symbols. But plan It was drafted by France and Germany and supported by the United Statesdoes not explicitly call for mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia.

If implemented, it would prevent Belgrade from blocking Kosovo’s attempts to seek membership in the United Nations and other international organizations.

Despite tentative approval of the EU plan reached last month, populist Serbian President Vucic appeared to backtrack on some of its points after pressure from far-right groups, which regard Kosovo as the birthplace of the Serbian state and the Orthodox religion.

Vucic said on Thursday he would “not sign anything” at the Ohrid meeting and earlier vowed not to recognize Kosovo or allow it into the United Nations. Saturday repeated that he had not signed the execution document, despite Corti’s insistence on it.

He said the parties did not agree on all points, but “despite the differences, we had a decent conversation”.

“In the coming months, we face serious and difficult tasks,” he added.

On the other hand, Corti complained that Vucic did not sign the enforcement agreement on Saturday.

“This is a de facto recognition between Kosovo and Serbia” because Serbia has not yet signed the agreement, he said, adding, “Now the European Union has to make it internationally binding.”

The EU will now forcefully demand that both sides fulfill their obligations if they want to join the bloc, Borrell said, warning that there would be consequences otherwise.

He also touched on the coupling of the Federation of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, which would give greater autonomy to Serb-majority municipalities, a long-contested topic.

“Kosovo agreed to proceed immediately – and when I say immediately, I mean immediately – negotiations with the EU facilitated dialogue on establishing a specific arrangement and safeguards to ensure an adequate level of self-administration for Kosovo’s Serb communities,” said the EU’s top diplomat.

Kosovo is an ethnic Albanian-majority former province in Serbia. The 1998-1999 war broke out when separatist Albanians rebelled against Serbian rule, and Belgrade responded with brutal repression.

About 13,000 people died, most of them Albanians.

In 1999, a NATO military intervention forced Serbia to withdraw from the territory. Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

Tensions have escalated since then. Kosovo’s independence is a favour It is accepted by many Western countries, but Belgrade opposes it with the support of Russia and China. EU-brokered talks have made little progress in recent years.

Serbia has maintained close relations with its traditional Slavic ally Russia despite the war in Ukraine, in part because of Moscow’s opposition to Kosovo’s independence and the prospect of vetoing its UN membership in the Security Council.

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