By Fatmir Aliu and Gordana Andric
At the end of the latest round of Kosovo-Serbia talks, which began on Monday, the two sides agreed to accept each others’ higher education qualifications – a key issue for ethnic Albanians living in Serbia many of whom have diplomas from Kosovo universities.
The Council of the European Union announced that the European University Association would be asked to certify the diplomas issued by the universities of each side.
“I hope very much that from early next year anyone with a university diploma in either Belgrade or Pristina will be able to use it for further education or employment,” EU talks mediator, Robert Cooper, said.
Brussels also said some progress had been made on another outstanding issue – Kosovo’s right to participate in regional fora under its own flag and emblems, which Serbia opposes on the grounds that it would mean recognition of Kosovo’s independence.
Serbia has refused to participate in any regional forum where Kosovo is represented as an independent state complete with state symbols.
«It was agreed that the parties would return to the issue at their next meeting with a view to reaching an agreement,» a press release said.
Although the two sides discussed the most sensitive issue of all – control of Kosovo’s northern border with Serbia – no deal was reached on an EU compromise solution, known as Integrated Border Management, IBM.
The European Commission developed the IBM concept for border managment in the Western Balkans according to which all relevant authorities and agencies involved in border security and trade facilitation would work in coordination.
Serbia objects to the presence of Kosovo officials on the border as Belgrade insists it is not a state border but an «administrative line», separating Serbia proper from what Serbia insists is still a Serbian province.
Locals Serbs in nothern Kosovo have also violently objected to the deployment of Kosovo officials on the border.
The next round of talks in sceheduled for the end of November.
On Monday the two teams returned to the negotiating table for talks sponsored by the European Union in Brussels, which halted in September after violent incidents in Serb-run northern Kosovo.
Kosovo and Serbia in spring entered into what is called a “technical dialogue” with a view to normalising relations while they both move towards European integration.
EU Envoy Cooper has so far brokered five deals, mainly on trade, freedom of movement and cadastral registry. So far, Serbia has implemented only the trade agreement, however.
The Serbian team leader, Borislav Stefanovic, on Monday told reporters in Brussels that the seventh round had been “tough”.
“Unfortunately we haven’t reached any other deal on the [other] outstanding questions,” Stefanovic added, referring to the question of Kosovo’s northern border and the presence of Kosovo police and customs officials there .
One reason why Serbia has continued dialugue with Kosovo is because it is a condition for Serbia to obtain EU candidate country status.
Belgrade hopes that when EU leaders meet in Brussels on December 9, they will give Serbia a green light to get candidate status, following a positive recommendation from the European Commission in October.