Serbia Inks Historic Kosovo Accord
The Serbian Parliament has overwhelmingly approved normalizing relations with its former breakaway province Kosovo.
The historic agreement can put Belgrade as well as Pristina on the path to joining the European Union.
Of the 203 MPs present, 173 voted in favor of the agreement, which was already approved by the Serbian government. The agreement got support from the parties of the ruling, nationalist-led government and the center-left Opposition. A pro-Russian, nationalist party was the only formation to vote against it.
Heavy police presence was reported outside the Parliament as ultra-nationalists organized a large protest rally against what they call "treason."
"This is not just a simple vote about the agreement. This vote shows what we stand for and which way we want to go. Yes, we could have rejected the deal and thus become the North Korea in Europe, but what would happen with Serbia then," Prime Minister Ivica Dacic is quoted in telling MPs at the end of the daylong, heated debate.
Dacic, however, has pointed out that the agreement does not recognize Kosovo's independence.
Normalization of relations with Kosovo was a condition for Serbia to begin negotiations to eventually join the EU.
On Monday, the European Commission officially recommended the start of EU accession negotiations with Serbia.
Serbia has rejected Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence - which has been recognized by more than 90 countries including the US and 22 of the EU's 27 members.
Many Serbs in Kosovo's north still recognize Belgrade as their legitimate government.