February 24, 2012
Compromise paves way for Serbia to become EU membership candidate and for Kosovo to get pre-accession agreement. Serbia and Kosovo have agreed how Kosovo can present itself in diplomatic meetings of the western Balkan states, paving the way for the European Union to grant Serbia the status of a candidate for membership next week.
BRUSSELS – by Toby Vogel / EV
Monday, February 24, 2012
The two sides also agreed how to manage their border, which Serbia views as purely administrative because it does not recognise Kosovo’s independence.
The agreement was reached today (24 February) after two-and-a-half days of talks in Brussels mediated by Robert Cooper, chief diplomatic adviser toCatherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
The compromise foresees that Kosovo’s nameplate in diplomatic gatherings will contain a footnote making reference to Resolution 1244 of the United Nations Security Council of 1999 (as demanded by Serbia) and to a ruling by the International Court of Justice from 2010 (a Kosovar demand).
The footnote to the name ‘Kosovo’ will read: “This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.”
The Kosovar side had difficulties agreeing to the compromise because it feared that doing so would affect its sovereignty. In order to get Kosovo’s agreement, Štefan Füle, the European commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, pledged to launch preparations for a pre-accession agreement between the EU and Kosovo, something that has eluded Kosovo because five member states do not recognise its independence.
In a statement, Ashton and Füle described today’s deal as “a major step forward”. They said that the agreement on regional representation will make Kosovo “a full participant in its own right in regional meetings and events and will allow for further progress to contractual relations with the EU”.
“Kosovo will thus follow the same European course as all others in the western Balkans, in line with its European perspective. In this light, the Commission proposes to launch a feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement [SAA] between Kosovo and the EU.”
An SAA would be the first contractual link between the EU and Kosovo, which has not been recognised by Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.