Kosovo government gets parliament support for Serbia talks
(PRISTINA) - The Kosovo parliament on Thursday threw its support behind the government, authorising it to lead talks with Serbia on normalising relations.
Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci sought to ensure the backing of a majority in parliament before resuming the sensitive EU-mediated talks aimed at improving ties with the territory's former ruler.
"The assembly of the republic of Kosovo supports the process on the normalisation of relations between two independent and sovereign states, Kosovo and Serbia, in the interest of solving the problems between the two states, improving the life of the citizens and advancing the European agenda for both states and the region," the resolution stated.
Parliament "authorises the government to lead" the EU-facilitated dialogue which is also supported by the United States.
Observers said the move was also calculated to show the international community that Kosovo is taking a lead in the dialogue which Brussels says is as a key factor for Pristina's European integration.
"Kosovo is free and independent but independence alone is not enough, we have to integrate into the EU and NATO," Thaci told the parliament before the vote.
"Normalisation of relations and being good neighbours are the condition" for this integration, he stressed.
Two lawmakers from the nationalist Self-determination movement, the third biggest party in parliament which opposes any negotiations with Belgrade, unfurled a banner during the debate which read 'Resolution = submission to Serbia'.
The resolution, adopted with 68 votes in the 120 seat parliament, reaffirms Pristina's refusal to negotiate about the status of Kosovo, which unilaterally proclaimed independence in 2008.
Serbia firmly rejects the independence of its breakaway southern province and wants its future status on the agenda of talks. Some 90 states including 22 of the EU's 27 members and the United States recognise Kosovo's independence.
The dialogue started in March 11 under strong international pressure and has yielded several agreements aimed at making the daily lives of Kosovo's two million inhabitants, mainly ethnic Albanians with a significant Kosovo Serb minority, easier.
The talks were halted after Serbia held elections in May and Brussels has been stepping up the pressure to re-launch the dialogue.
Serbia is a candidate member of the 17-nation bloc but the EU has made it clear also to Belgrade that it must re-enter the talks and show concrete results before Brussels can agree to start accession talks.