Kosovo and Serbia Presidents Due For Historic Meet

The Presidents of Kosovo and Serbia will sit down at the same table on Wednesday for the first time since Kosovo declared independence in 2008 in order to “normalise” relations.Atifete Jahjaga and Tomislav Nikolic are to meet Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Policy Chief, in Brussels on Wednesday to symbolically back the ongoing dialogue between the two sides.

“The meeting is another step towards normalising relations between the two countries and a sign of reconciliation,” a diplomatic source told Balkan Insight.

At a meeting with the US Vice President Joe Biden at the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich on Sunday, Jahjaga again expressed her readiness to meet Nikolic.

“We are committed to the [EU talks] process, being deeply convinced that we should not leave the animosities of the past to future generations,” the President said.

The joint meeting is seen as historic given that Serbia bitterly opposes Kosovo’s independence, proclaimed in 2008, and has boycotted any events where Kosovo officials were represented under the name of “Kosovo”.

The two countries started EU-led talks in March 2011 and have reached several agreements so far. In October, the talks were raised to a higher level when the Kosovo and Serbia Prime Ministers, Hashim Thaci and Ivica Dacic, met in Brussels for the first time.

Krstimir Pantic, a leader of the Kosovo Serbs and Deputy Director of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo, said the meeting will mark a new era in relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

“President Nikolic has showed courage and willingness to discuss all outstanding issues with representatives of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo,” Pantic said on Monday.

The meeting is seen as especially important in the light of the two countries’ progress towards EU membership. Normalisation of mutual relations is a precondition for the EU integration progress.

Kosovo is hoping to see visas scrapped for travel to the EU Schengen-zone countries, and sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA, with the EU – the first step towards eventual membership.

Serbia meanwhile is awaiting a start date for EU accession talks.

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