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Serbia and Kosovo reach landmark deal

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.