DPA, December 08, 2011
LEAD: Serbia under growing pressure on Kosovo ahead of EU summit
Pristina/Belgrade - The European Union's chief diplomat, Catherine Ashton, on Thursday urged Serbia and Kosovo to swiftly launch joint control over their contested border.
In talks led under EU auspices, the two sides agreed to an integrated border management. The deal is intended to ease the tension in the border zone on the Kosovo side, which is dominated by ethnic Serbs.
'I ... stressed the importance of early implementation and look forward to new agreements,' Ashton said after meeting Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
The implementation of the agreement is critical for Serbia's hope to be formally recognized as a membership candidate by the EU at its summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
But even as Ashton spoke, Serbs in northern Kosovo renewed the blockade of a road toward one of the crossing points. They began lifting barricades this week, after maintaining them for months to stop the Kosovo government's access to border crossings.
President Boris Tadic, who had called on the Serbs to lift the roadblocks and welcomed when they finally started doing so, said his country had done enough already and should now be granted candidate status.
Germany, however, says it will not allow this until Serbia begins making real progress toward normalizing relations with its former province.
Kosovo on Thursday also urged the EU to maintain pressure on Serbia and force it into honouring agreements it has made in the talks.
'It is time for EU to apply serious pressure,' Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj said.
While several breakthroughs were declared from the eight rounds of talks, most recently on the tense issue of border controls, Kosovo officials complained that Serbia was not implementing the agreements.
Kosovo, with a 90 per cent Albanian majority, was the scene of a war for independence from Belgrade's rule in 1999, which eventually drew NATO into the conflict. NATO still maintains a peacekeeping presence there.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and was recognized by the United States, as well as 22 of the 27 EU nations and nearly all countries in the region.
Serbia insists the secession was illegal and continues to treat the territory as its own