Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s newly-re-elected Prime Minister
Serbia and Kosovo on Tuesday launched their first direct talks since
Kosovo's declaration of independence three years ago voicing high
hopes amid warm EU and US encouragement, reports AFP.
A first round of talks, lasting some two hours and to be followed up
Wednesday, went well with discussions open in a friendly atmosphere, a
European Union source said.
"They were constructive, friendly and frank, with no shying away from
issues,” he said.
Negotiators stepped into the historic encounter deep inside EU
headquarters upbeat and positive over the upcoming two-day dialogue.
Arriving first and asked whether they would shake hands, Serbian
negotiator Borko Stefanovic said, "Absolutely!"
"We have high hopes," he said, though "we don't expect miracles".
Kosovo's deputy Prime Minister, Edita Tahiri stepped in saying "We
come with a positive spirit and constructive approach."
"With creativity we think we may overcome the differences and it may
improve the lives of people but also advance the European agenda for
At this first round, the EU-brokered talks are to touch on
nuts-and-bolts issues complicating everyday life -- border crossings,
ID papers, mobile phone networks, and such like.
Facilitator to the talks, which if successful are to take place at
regular intervals, is Robert Cooper, special advisor to EU foreign
policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
"Solving problems by dialogue is the European way," Ashton said in a
statement. "The objectives of the talks are to promote cooperation and
bring both Pristina and Belgrade closer to the EU."
The larger historical picture of mutual recognition or official
apologies is to remain strictly off the table, EU sources said. "We
hope to start with easy issues, and in the future they can break
ground," said an EU diplomat.
With train connections idle since 1999 and Serbian airspace banned for
travel to Kosovo, as well as a myriad of other day-to-day irritants
for ordinary people, the negotiators will seek to overcome such
Kosovars heading to Europe, for example, must detour through Albania
and Montenegro because their passports are invalid in Serbia. But to
get a Serbian passport they need birth certificates obtainable only in
Serbia -- where they cannot travel with documents issued in Pristina.