An Unlikely Agreement in the Balkans

Pano_pristina_noche2Serbia and Kosovo find common ground over a conflicted zone.

by Cristina Maza.

The international community let out a collective cheer as one of Europe’s last frozen disputes has come closer than ever to being resolved. Since NATO troops put an end to the bloody conflict in Kosovo in 1999, the fate of the territory has hung in the balance. For 13 years Kosovo has been under the control of foreign peacekeepers and diplomats while various proposals for determining its final status have been debated and rejected to the dismay of most involved. On April 27, however, the scenario changed dramatically: Serbian and Kosovar officials reached a preliminary agreement to normalize relations between the Balkan country and its breakaway province. The Serbian parliament approved the deal with a majority of 173 parliamentarians out of 250.

While the agreement does not imply Serbia’s formal recognition of Kosovo’s independence, it is hailed as an extraordinary accomplishment by most commentators. Control over Kosovo’s north has been an issue of contention throughout the negotiations, but the latest agreement has resolved even this issue as Serbia has agreed to recognize Pristina’s authority over the Serbian-populated north. The E.U. has long demanded that Serbia and Kosovo resolve the issue over who controls the area before beginning the process of E.U. accession. Those foreign diplomats pulling the strings in the region view the new agreement as a sign of compliance with E.U. demands and are ready to respond with the long-awaited carrot. The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton declared that the agreement was a “step closer to Europe for both Kosovo and Serbia”, and Stefan Fule, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated, “Both Serbia and Kosovo deserve to move on decisively in their E.U. perspectives.”

However, while E.U. diplomats may appear smug and relieved, the agreement will still be difficult to implement. Despite the Serbian government’s support for the agreement, many in both Kosovo and Serbia are …

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