Serbia and Kosovo reach landmark deal

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After ten rounds of often grueling talks in the EU-facilitated Dialogue, the breakthrough that many had hoped for came on Friday 19 April. Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative who has chaired the talks, announced that Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi had reached a landmark agreement.

Speaking to the media outside the EEAS building Catherine Ashton said:

"These negotiations have been concluded. The text has been initialled by both Prime Ministers.

I want to congratulate them for their determination over these months and for the courage that they have. It is very important that now what we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for both of them, a step closer to Europe.

The agreement aimed at normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo and in doing so close one of the complicated chapters in the collapse of Yugoslavia.

The talks had been held at EEAS Headquarters in Brussels with a combination of plenary and bilateral meetings.

The agreement came just in time as on Monday 22 April was the meeting of the EU's General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council. In both meetings, Catherine Ashton would have to brief Foreign Ministers of the EU's 27 countries on the state of play of negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo.

At stake was whether to open negotiations on Serbia becoming a possible EU member and a possible Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between Kosovo and the EU. An agreement and normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina would open a European integration future for both. Failure to agree would set this back and freeze the process. After the EU brokered agreement on Friday, at the General Affairs Council on Monday morning the European Commission formally recommended to EU Member States that EU accession negotiations with Serbia and negotiations on an SAA with Kosovo be opened. 

Messages of congratulations by a number of key persons followed the agreement in the EU-facilitated dialogue on the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo:

President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, on the occasion of the agreement within the facilitated dialogue on the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo

I congratulate the Prime Minister of Serbia Ivica Dačić and the Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi for reaching an agreement today within the facilitated dialogue in order to normalise relations between Serbia and Kosovo. I also congratulate the people in Serbia and Kosovo.

The agreement today is historic and marks an important moment in the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo as well as in their relations with the European Union. I commend both Prime Ministers for their personal and courageous contributions to the process. This agreement represents a major achievement as the parties have committed to jointly work towards a future in the European Union.

The European Union wants Serbia and Kosovo to succeed. I reconfirm Serbia's and Kosovo's EU perspectives and underline that the Member States of the European Union have set out an ambitious agenda for both parties in 2013.

Let me encourage the parties to continue with the same constructive approach as regards implementing this agreement. Concrete results in the implementation are critical; there are no shortcuts. The necessary criteria, that will allow the European Union to launch accession negotiations with Serbia and negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo, must be fulfilled.

Finally, I would like to thank High Representative Ashton for her committed, consistent conduct of the facilitated dialogue crowned in the end with a true break-through.

President Barroso on the agreement in the EU-facilitated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo

I applaud the breakthrough by Serbia and Kosovo in their EU-facilitated dialogue. This is a historic agreement, which must now be implemented quickly. I congratulate the leaders of both sides on their commitment, courage and vision.

I would also like to commend Cathy Ashton for her tireless efforts in her role as the facilitator and to congratulate her for successfully building consensus.

I am confident that the agreement reached between the two sides will pave the way for the Council to take decisions on the next steps on the European path of Serbia and Kosovo. The people of Serbia and Kosovo want to move forward and make their European perspective a reality. This is crucial for the stability, security and prosperity of South Eastern Europe and of the European Union as a whole.

Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle's reaction to the results of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue

This is an historic day for Serbia-Kosovo relations, for the entire Western Balkans region and for the European Union.

I want to congratulate both Prime Ministers and their teams. This ground breaking agreement would not have been possible without their courage and commitment during difficult negotiations. I also want to express my heartfelt thanks to Cathy Ashton and congratulate her for the tireless personal investment and perseverance in helping the agreement come about.

Both leaderships had to find compromises which by definition were never going to be ideal for either side. This consensual approach will help both countries on their paths towards the European Union. That's how the European Union works. We are not weaker because we try to reach consensus on the contrary we are much stronger because we are able to compromise.

We are now working with the High Representative Vice President Ashton on finalising the recommendations which will be presented to the General Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday.

It is crucial now that the political leadership and general public in both Serbia and Kosovo support the agreement and actively help to implement it. It is an opportunity that cannot be missed. It is in the interests of all concerned; of the people living in Kosovo, those living in Serbia and the region as a whole.

They can count on our continued support, solidarity, encouragement and confidence in their European future. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry on the Agreement Between Kosovo and Serbia in the EU-facilitated Dialogue

I congratulate Serbia and Kosovo for reaching agreement today in the European Union-facilitated Dialogue led by High Representative Catherine Ashton. This agreement on principles for normalization of relations required compromise and political courage from both sides, and I applaud the governments of Kosovo and Serbia for making the hard decisions that will move them closer to their goals of European integration. I encourage both countries now to implement expeditiously and fully all Dialogue agreements reached to date, so that all of those living in Kosovo and Serbia can continue to build a more peaceful and prosperous future.

I commend High Representative Ashton for her facilitation of these talks between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. Her leadership and dedication were critical in bringing about this important agreement.

The United States will remain deeply committed to seeing the people of Serbia, Kosovo, and the entire region realize their aspirations of integration into a Europe free, whole, and at peace.

NATO Secretary General welcomes Belgrade-Pristina Agreement on Normalisation
I congratulate all parties for their constructive approach to finding a lasting solution in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. And I commend Baroness Ashton for helping them find a mutually beneficial outcome.

I am very happy for NATO to contribute to the conclusion of an historic agreement.

It has been a long process, but ultimately successful. It has sometimes been difficult, but all leaders concerned have risen above the difficulties. For its part, NATO will continue to ensure a safe and secure environment throughout Kosovo. As we have done in the past, NATO and in particular KFOR will stand ready to support the implementation of this latest agreement to the best of our ability within our current mandate.

I am confident that all people in the region and the whole international community will recognise what has been achieved here in Brussels. I am confident that this agreement means a big step forward for regional peace and security. And it will give new momentum to the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans, which is our shared vision.
Statement by the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina

The Secretary-General welcomes the landmark agreement between Belgrade and Pristina initialed today in Brussels under the auspices of the E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.

The Secretary-General congratulates and commends the leaders from both sides for their steadfast determination and hopes that the agreement will bring about a brighter future and lasting stability to the region.  He also congratulates Lady Ashton for her strong efforts and her successful personal role in helping to bring about this agreement.

The Secretary-General strongly encourages the parties to conclude this historic process and take concrete measures for a faithful implementation of the agreement.  The United Nations stands ready to assist the parties in this endeavour.
OSCE welcomes Belgrade-Pristina agreement 
The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and the OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier welcomed today’s Belgrade-Pristina agreement facilitated by the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton in Brussels.

Calling the agreement “an important step in normalization of relations and stability in the region,” Minister Kozhara said, “I commend the leadership in Belgrade and Pristina for their courage and vision in reaching this agreement. This is the beginning of a new chapter and I support continuation of this dialogue that will improve the lives of all the communities in Kosovo”.

The OSCE Secretary General added: “In welcoming this historic agreement I also call for its effective implementation. Where possible, the OSCE will provide concrete support in line with our mandate. We already have the largest international civilian presence in Kosovo, which is working on institution and democracy building and promoting human rights and the rule of law for the benefit of all communities”..
La Serbie et le Kosovo ont conclu aujourd’hui un accord historique, dans le cadre du dialogue facilité par l’Union européenne. Cet accord constitue un tournant et un pas sans précédent dans l’amélioration durable des relations entre les deux pays.

Nous félicitons les autorités serbes et kosovares, et en particulier les deux Premiers ministres qui se sont engagés personnellement dans un exercice difficile, pour leur détermination et leur volonté de parvenir à un compromis. Nous voulons les assurer qu’ils ont fait un choix courageux.

Cet accord pose les fondements d’une relation normalisée, qui contribuera à la stabilité et permettra aux populations de se tourner vers l’avenir, le développement de leurs pays et leur perspective européenne.

Il est essentiel, pour cela, d’assurer sans tarder la mise en œuvre de cet accord. La France et l’Union européenne apporteront tout leur soutien. Nous félicitons également Mme Ashton et son équipe pour leur engagement continu qui a permis d’aboutir à cet accord.


Some reactions on Twitter:

Herman Van Rompuy
I congratulate #Serbia & #Kosovo for break-through in EU facilitated dialogue

Štefan Füle
Heartfelt congratulations Catherine #Ashton 4ground-breaking #Serbia-#Kosovo deal today!You&your team are commitment&perseverance champions!

Jon Snow
My sources:Cathy Ashton EU(Foreign Affairs) has pulled off a massive peace deal between Kosovo and Serbia: first full blown deal in 100yrs

Anders Fogh Rasmussen
NATO will continue to ensure safe,secure #Kosovo, as we have done in past Stand ready to support future agrmnt within current #UN mandate

Ashton secures 'historic' #Serbia #Kosovo deal

#Ashton: "These negotiations have been concluded. The text has been initialled by both Prime Ministers." #Serbia #Kosovo

Martin Schulz
Welcome long awaited agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, major step after long and intensive talks. Good news for region and for EU

Michel Barnier 
Thanks to tenacity of Catherine Ashton & eeas, agreement reached between Serbia and Kosovo. Real stability possible in the Balkans

Espen Barth Eide
‏I welcome today's historic understanding between Kosovo and Serbia. A victory for Serbia, Kosovo and facilitator Catherine Ashton

Androulla Vassiliou ‏
Well done Cathy Ashton! The agreement reached between Serbia & Pristina is a great achievement.Congratulations to the 2 leaders as well

Roger Boyes ‏
(The Times Foreign Correspondent)If (if) it holds,Belgrade-Kosovo pact big win for EU foreign policy and Cathy Ashton.US impressed. Now for Bosnia, Iran...

Jacqui Smith
Great job by Cathy Ashton brokering historic Serbia/Kosovo peace deal

Richard Howitt
As I prepare for Balkans visit Monday great see Cathy Ashton success on Kosovo/Serbia deal

Cecilia Malmström
And congratulations to Cathy Ashton for her hard and persistent efforts /CM

Alastair Campbell
Last week everyone was very pessimistic re any chance of Serbia-Kosovo agreement. Seems to have happened. Big credit to Cathy Ashton btw