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Serbia and Kosovo get their reward

In the wake of their agreement to normalize relations, Serbia and Kosovo have received what they were seeking: progress in their respective bids for European Union membership. Via BBC:

The European Commission has recommended opening EU membership talks with Serbia, following Friday's landmark deal to normalise Serbia-Kosovo ties.

Serbia's government has approved the EU-brokered deal with its former province of Kosovo. Both Serbia and Kosovo want to join the EU...[snip]

The Commission, which steers EU membership negotiations, said it "recommends that negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened with Serbia". EU foreign ministers will consider the issue on Monday.

In a report the Commission said Serbia had "actively and constructively" engaged in dialogue with Kosovo and had improved its co-operation with Eulex, the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo.

In a separate report the Commission also recommended opening talks with Kosovo on reaching a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU - a key step towards full EU accession negotiations.

Hardliners have squawked, but the signs are that the deal will stick. Kosovo's parliament endorsed the deal and Serbia's will reportedly follow suit this week. Writing in the FT, Misha Glenny describes Brussels' leveraging of the membership process as masterful:

There are potholes in the road to a functioning deal, and there will be challenges to implementation. But it is a measure of Baroness Ashton’s ability that Belgrade and Pristina have both indicated that they want her help in overseeing the process.

One reason she was able to coax them to make a deal (she insists that the parties are responsible for the overall content) is it was thought so impossible no other party wanted a role in negotiations. This proves that when the EU speaks with a single voice, it can use its leverage to overcome the claim that it is an economic?giant but a political pygmy.

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