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Serbia, Kosovo leaders aim to normalise ties at Brussels talks

Serbia, Kosovo leaders aim to normalise ties at Brussels talks
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Leaders from Serbia and Kosovo are meeting in Brussels for talks aimed at normalising relations between the two nations.

Belgrade wants to open negotiations to join the EU but has to mend ties with its neighbour before doing so.

Hashim Thaci, prime minister of Kosovo, said he hoped that some sort of deal would be struck during the meeting.

“An agreement would be good for Kosovo, Serbia and the whole region in a European context,” he said.

“Pristina will lay out its demands, which are compatible with its constitution and the rule of law.

“We want to have good relations with our neighbours and turn the page on this era of confrontation.”

Serbia doesn’t recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

A key issue is the Serb-dominated area of northern Kosovo. Some 50,000 Serbs live there, many of whom reject the authority of the Pristina government.

They are even created parallel institutions financed by Belgrade, such as hospitals, schools and even courts that operate under Serbian law.

Nikola Kabasic is the president of one such court in Mitrovica.
“In the situations where judicial decisions are final and should be implemented, we lack the assistance of the police to enforce our decisions in case when the parties fail to comply voluntarily. we lack means to implement it physically,” he said.

Mitrovica is a town divided along ethnic lines. The areas north of the Ivar river are controlled by Serbs, whilst those to the south are run by ethnic Albanians.

This police spokesman — the Kosovo police force is the only institution recognised in the north — said cooperation with Serb-staffed authorities was very poor and this hampered their ability to tackle crime effectively.

Belgrade has insisted on a high level of autonomy for Serbs living in Kosovo, but Pristina opposes such a move and has the backing of many EU countries as well as the United States.