Kosovo, Serbia hail breakthrough deal

Last Updated: Sunday, July 3, 2011 - 22:34

Pristina: Kosovo and Serbia on Sunday hailed
the first deal on resolving nuts-and-bolts problems created by
Pristina`s declared independence as a step towards European
integration.

A five-month EU-brokered dialogue between Belgrade and
Pristina produced first results late yesterday as the two
sides agreed on issues such as freedom of movement and what to
do about Serbia holding civil registries since the end of the
1998-1999 conflict.

According to the deal citizens of Kosovo, a former
Serbian province, will be able to cross the border with Serbia
and move freely around the country with personal documents
issued by Pristina authorities, excluding passports.

Belgrade up to now had considered Kosovo vehicle
number-plates and ID as invalid, preventing Kosovars from
using the shortest route to western Europe.

This was a particular headache for some of the
150,000-strong Kosovo diaspora in EU countries, who welcomed
the agreement with relief.

Agush Hasani, 62, whose two sons live and work in
Germany, hopes to see them more frequently now.

"It was a nightmare for them to travel to Kosovo by
car as it took around 30 hours" along roads around Serbia,
Hasani said.

Gani Hoda of a Pristina-based tourist agency said he
and most of his fellow colleagues had been waiting for the
agreement for a long time.

"Our bus, which left Switzerland yesterday, had to
take a roundabout route through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and
Montenegro to get to Kosovo instead of going straight across
Serbia," Hoda said.

"The journey is not only 10 hours longer but increases
travel expenses by up to 700 euros per bus."

A Kosovo Serb leader, Rada Trajkovic, said the deal
will also make the life of the Serb minority in Kosovo easier,
which has been unable to travel throughout the territory with
identity papers and driving licences issued by Serbian
authorities.

Serbia has vowed never to recognise Kosovo as a state,
considering it as its southern province, but 76 countries,
including the United States and 22 of the 27 EU member states,
have recognised its independence in 2008.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, July 3, 2011 - 22:34

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