Kosovo and Serbia agree deal with EU assistance

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Serbia and its former province of Kosovo have reached an ­European Union-brokered ­accord aimed at normalising relations between the Balkan neighbours.

After almost four hours of EU-mediated talks between ­Belgrade and Pristina, the two delegations sealed a landmark deal, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said yesterday.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, ­following the war a decade previously. More than 100 states around the world recognise Kos­ovo as an independent country, but Serbia has refused to do so.

Since the conflict in Kosovo ended in the late 1990s, the status of northern Kosovo has been a source of tension. The north has remained beyond the control of Pristina government, with Serbia continuing to bankroll local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

Now a so-called Association of Serb Municipalities with broad powers will be set up, including the four Serb-run northern ­municipalities in the north.

The new draft agreement also envisions that the local Serbian community will choose local police commanders, while the composition of the police will reflect Kosovo’s ethnic structure – Serbs make up around 10 per cent of the population.

“I want to congratulate both prime ministers [Ivica Dacic of Serbia and Hashim Thaci of Kosovo] and their teams. This ­agreement would not have been possible without their courage and commitment,” said EU ­Commissioner Štefan Füle.

“Both leaderships had to find compromises which by definition were never going to be ideal for either side. This consensual approach will help both on their paths towards the European Union. That’s how the EU works.”