The parliament of Kosovo and the government of Serbia have approved the groundbreaking reconciliation deal between Serbian PM Ivica Dacic and Kosovo’s PM Hashim Thaçi.
Vedat Xhymshiti | between THE frontlines
Serbia’s Parliament is to discuss the agreement on Thursday, amid a heated domestic debate. The deal between Serbia and its breakaway province was signed Friday in Brussels under the mediation of EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Catherine Ashton.
“What we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for both of them, a step closer to Europe,” commented Ashton.
Hardliners in both Kosovo and Serbia, on the other hand, have objected that the deal gives far too much to the other side.
The agreement does not constitute recognition of Kosovo on the part of Serbia, but regulates the status of the ethnic Serbian majority in Northern Kosovo.
According to the deal, Serbs there will remain under Kosovar jurisdiction, but will have a broad autonomy, including their own police force and court executive powers.
A late Sunday night heated debate in the house in Pristina ended with 89 votes “for” and 5 “against” the treaty.
A rally had assembled in front of parliament in Kosovo’s capital to express dissent with the agreement.
|EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton helped broker the deal between Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (R) and Serbian leader Ivica Dacic (AP)
On Sunday people greeted Dacic at the Belgrade marathon with a large sign reading “You Gave Kosovo Away,” suggesting the agreement in effect recognizes the authority of Pristina.
According to the Serbian PM, his country has now received assurance from Cathy Ashton that it will imminently receive a start date for EU accession negotiations. However, he said that this is not “an award” for the agreement reached with Kosovo. Alexandar Vucic, leader of the nationalist-leading Serbian Progressive Party, has already called for a referendum.
Earlier, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said that “if the government accepts the agreement, I expect Serbia to get a date to start membership talks with the European Union”.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but many of the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo have refused to recognise the authority of its mainly ethnic Albanian government.