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BALKANS > Serbia closer to EU after Kosovo deal

MITROVICA / BELGRADE

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German FM Westerwelle (L) hugs his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic.

German FM Westerwelle (L) hugs his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic.

Serbia and Kosovo reached agreement Feb. 24 on two key issues that will significantly enhance Serbia’s chances of becoming an official candidate for EU membership next week.

The agreements allow Kosovo to represent itself in international conferences and spell out the technical details of how Serbia and Kosovo will manage their joint borders and border crossings. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and enlargement commissioner Stefan Füle welcomed the agreements as “a major step forward.” The EU wanted Belgrade to make new progress in the talks with Kosovo before backing its bid to join the bloc. EU foreign ministers will meet next week to consider whether Serbia has fulfilled conditions required to be a candidate for membership.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle welcomed the agreement as “a big step in the right direction,” adding that it “would be very important in setting the course for the EU’s discussions next week on Serbia’s accession prospects.”

Serbs have also removed barricades in northern Kosovo, enabling cars to cross into Serbia for the first time since July. The barricades, at Jarinje and Brnjak, were removed by Serbian police, Slavisa Ristic, a northern Kosovo Serb leader said. Last July Kosovo Serbs set up more than a dozen roadblocks, protesting against the presence of ethnic Albanian customs and police officials at the posts.

Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

February/25/2012

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