Serbia and its former province of Kosovo took steps toward overcoming decades of enmity on Tuesday (25 August), signing energy and telecoms agreements, bringing Belgrade closer to joining the European Union.
After European Union-mediated talks in Brussels, Serbs in northern Kosovo will enjoy greater rights and be able to manage some issues such as the local economy and education, as well as having access to funding from Belgrade.
“Today’s outcome represents landmark achievements in the normalisation process,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement, referring to the two sides that fought a war in the 1990s and which both aspire to EU membership.
Kosovo will, for example, have its own telephone country code, essentially a recognition by Serbia of the sovereignty of majority-Albanian Kosovo, which has declared independence.
Until now, due to Serbia’s obstructions, Kosovo was using the telephone codes of Monaco and Slovenia for mobile phones.
Serbia’s hopes of opening the first chapter in EU accession talks hinge on implementation of an EU-brokered deal in 2013 to regulate relations with Kosovo.
Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO intervened with air strikes to drive out Serbian forces from Kosovo and halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians during a two-year counter-insurgency war.
The US State Department praised both governments for their progress and “moving their countries closer to normalization of relations and along their respective EU paths”.