Serbia and Kosovo made a deal. Hopefully successful one

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Serbia and Kosovo made a deal. Hopefully successful one

Is Balkan stable after they made a deal?

The European Union has brokered a deal between member candidate Serbia and its former province Kosovo to ease travel restrictions, removing an issue that had raised tensions in the West Balkans, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted on Saturday.

“We have a deal,” Borrell wrote after they made a deal. “Under the EU-facilitated Dialogue, Serbia agreed to abolish entry/exit documents for Kosovo ID holders and Kosovo agreed to not introduce them for Serbian ID holders.”

The move is symbolic progress in the decades-long dispute over the statehood of Kosovo and the coexistence of Albanians and Serbs, which is unresolved despite diplomatic offensives from the US and the EU, most recently this week.

A former Yugoslav province where Albanians are in a big majority, Kosovo fought a brief war of independence, culminating in Nato air strikes against Belgrade in 1999 as the international community feared ethnic cleansing of Albanians at the hands of Serbs.

For years under international protection, Pristina unilaterally broke off from Belgrade in 2008. More than a hundred nations have recognised its independence but Serbia has refused to accept it, as have several EU and Nato nations like Spain, Greece and Romania.




Top US and EU envoys have toured Kosovo and Serbia this week after the failure of talks in Brussels earlier this month to resolve tensions over Kosovo’s decision to mandate special entry-exit documents on top of Serb IDs — unless Serbia lifts a similar measure for Kosovars.

The EU and the US moved in lockstep as they applied pressure both on Kosovo premier Albin Kurti and Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić to make a deal.

Kurti confirmed they made a deal in a Facebook post on Saturday evening.

“Thank you all for your support and patience, especially in these last four weeks,” he wrote. “The spirit of the principled and equal talks in Brussels is reciprocity. Normalising solutions should have reciprocity within, as good neighbourly relationships imply it.”

Vučić did not immediately comment.

“I thank [US state department deputy assistant secretary Gabriel] Escobar and American diplomacy for their strong engagement in support of the EU-facilitated dialogue,” said EU chief negotiator Miroslav Lajčák in a Twitter post.

Pristina has bet on its pro-Western credentials to promote speedy accession to Nato and the EU amid the war in Ukraine, while comparing it with Serbia’s traditional closeness to Russia. Belgrade has rejected that as diplomatic posturing.

But accession is conditional on the normalisation of relations with Serbia, which has been a member candidate for years but has yet to deliver on laying the Kosovo conflict to bed.

Vučić has said he expected a deal on the IDs, adding that he would defend the interest of ethnic Serbs who live in Kosovo but reject the authority of Pristina. Prominent Serb politicians have refused to give ground on Kosovo, often calling the country “our province”.

Members of the Serb community in Northern Kosovo erected barricades and stared down Kosovo police when Pristina first introduced the rules for the entry-exit documents. Shots were fired with no injuries. Kosovo extended the deadline on applying the document rules by a month to September 1 but insisted on equal treatment of the citizens of both countries.

“Kosovo Serbs, as well as all other citizens, will be able to travel freely between Kosovo & Serbia using their ID cards. The EU just received guarantees from PM Kurti to this end,” Borrell wrote. “This is a European solution. We congratulate both leaders.”

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