Kosovo deal is latest breakthrough in talks with Serbia
(BRUSSELS) - A Serbia-Kosovo deal enabling Pristina to take its place alongside Belgrade at official Western Balkans meetings is the latest breakthrough in a year of small but significant steps to reduce tension.
The deal was negotiated at the 9th round of an EU-brokered dialogue that began in March 2010 as an unpretentious bid to and day-to-day headaches caused by Kosovo's 2008 breakaway and Serbia's refusal to recognise it as a state.
Following are the details of Thursday's accord as well as other problems solved over the past year in talks chaired by senior European Union diplomat Robert Cooper and led by Serbia's Borko Stefanovic and Kosovo deputy premier Edita Tahiri.
KOSOVO PARTICIPATION IN REGIONAL MEETINGS
The agreement allows Kosovo to participate in, sign new agreements on its own account and speak for itself at all regional meetings, after previously having to submit all agreements for signing to the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on its behalf.
Though Kosovo fought to represent itself as the Republic of Kosovo, "Kosovo*" will be the only denomination used. The footnote applied to the asterisk will read: "This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence".
The UN Security Council resolution of 1999 maintained Serbia's legal sovereignty over the province while acknowledging the possibility of independence.
The International Court of Justice ruling stated that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence was legally valid.
JOINT BORDER MANAGEMENT
The two sides agreed early December on the principle of "integrated management" of border crossings -- an agreement Kosovo's prime minister Hashim Thaci later claimed amounted to tacit recognition of Pristina's independence.
The agreement was for police and customs officers from both Belgrade and Pristina to jointly manage the crossings under the supervision of the European rule of law mission EULEX.
On Thursday, the two sides agreed a "technical protocol" to make the December accord operational.
It will work on practical questions such as the budget, design and location of the facilities.
Serbia in December handed over the first certified copies of Kosovo civil registries, which had been moved to Belgrade after the 1998-99 war.
The lack of registry books documenting births, marriages and deaths in the territory was a headache for residents of Kosovo, snagging proceedings such as divorce, and also hampering travel.
A reliable civil registry is one of the main demands of the European Union for allowing people to travel without visas in the passport-free 25-nation Schengen-zone. Kosovans are the only citizens of the western Balkans who still need visas to visit Europe.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
One of the first accords clinched after the talks began in March 2010 was on freedom of movement. Because Serbia does not recognise Kosovo, or its contentious border, it agreed to allow people to travel across the "border/boundary" on the basis of ID cards while also offering special car insurance and finding an acceptable system of vehicle licence plates.
The accord became fully operational end December though some issues, such as insurance, are not fully resolved.
RECOGNITION OF UNIVERSITY DIPLOMAS
Talks in July and November produced an agreement to ask the European University Association to certify diplomas issued by universities of both sides for use in further education and/or public employment.
In September, the dialogue produced a deal to overcome Serbia's removal of land property registration records -- leaving Kosovars notably unable to resolve disputes. Negotiators agreed to cooperate in establishing a fully reliable system of cadastral records in Kosovo to protect the rights of people with legitimate claims to property.
Also in September there was an agreement on the free movement of goods. Parties agreed that customs stamps marked "Kosovo Customs" will be accepted, leading to the lifting of mutual trade embargoes.
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