Serbia eyes `historic reconciliation` with Kosovo

Serbia and Kosovo began their first direct meetings since 2008.

Updated: Mar 07, 2011, 20:53 PM IST

Belgrade: Serbia and Kosovo begin
EU-brokered talks on Monday, the first high level direct meetings
since Pristina broke away in 2008, with Belgrade seeing an
opportunity for an "historic reconciliation."

However Serbia has made its clear that the talks will
only tackle practical problems like trade agreements, customs
issues and property records and stressed it would never
recognise Pristina`s declaration of independence.
"This is an opportunity for an historic reconciliation
between Serbs and (Kosovo) Albanians and neither Belgrade nor
Pristina should pass it up," Goran Bogdanovic, Serbia`s
minister for Kosovo, said last week.

The Serbian authorities are keen to show their
willingness to enter talks in the hope that it will speed up
their path to European Union membership but remain firm that
recognition of Kosovo`s independence is a bridge too far.
"For us Kosovo is Serbia," chief negotiator Bogdan
Stefanovic said, echoing a favourite nationalist slogan often
seen in graffiti here.

So far Kosovo is recognised by 75 states including the
US and a majority of European Union countries.

Even with recognition off the table, there is plenty
to talk about at the session in Brussels.

The status quo leads to strange situations in Kosovo
where for example the mobile phones in the Albanian majority
part operate with Monaco and Slovenian country codes while
Pristina is still a local call from Belgrade on a landline.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in press
interviews today that she hoped the talks would help bring
both Pristina and Belgrade closer to the EU.

"I want the dialogue to help in removing obstacles to
free movement of property and goods," she told Kosovo`a Koha
Ditore daily.

Kosovo`s chief negotiator, deputy prime minister Edita
Tahiri, said she hoped the talks would open new perspectives.

"It is time not to forget history but to rise above it
and look ahead," she said in an interview last week

Bureau Report