Serbia, Kosovo reach agreement to normalize relations
posted at 12:17 pm on April 19, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
On any other day, this would be big news, if perhaps a bit obscure. The agreement promises to settle the last conflict of the post-Soviet collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which touched off a series of wars and ended up pulling NATO into diplomatic conflict with Russia. Serbia has apparently agreed to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, a huge change, in part to gain membership in the EU:
The prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovoreached a tentative deal Friday to normalize relations between the Balkan neighbors and end years of acrimony.
EU negotiator Catherine Ashton said the deal culminated months of tense negotiations and showed determination of both Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
“What we are seeing is a step away from the past and for both of them a step closer to Europe,” Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said.
Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is considered by nationalists to be the cradle of Serbian medieval statehood and religion. It has been recognized by more than 90 countries including the U.S. and 22 of the EU’s 27 members. But because of a blockade by Serbian allies Russia and China in the Security Council, Kosovo is not a U.N. member.
Serbia relinquished the control of most of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO chased its troops out of the region after a three-month bombing campaign. Ending the partition of Kosovo between the Albanian majority and the Serb-controlled north — about a fifth of the country — is a key condition of Serbia’s further progress toward EU membership.
This could end the last of the potential flashpoints in Europe for war — after centuries of conflict, much of it originating in the Balkans. We’ll see what Kosovo agreed to do with the ethnic Serbs in the north, but this is good news at least at first blush.