EU hopeful that Kosovo and Serbia will reach deal this month
PRISTINA (Reuters) - The European Union expects former wartime foes Kosovo and Serbia to reach a final deal next week on normalising relations after both endorsed a peace plan, the bloc's envoy said on Thursday.
The nations' leaders are due to meet on March 18 in North Macedonia to discuss implementation of an 11-point EU plan after agreeing last month that its contents needed no further talks.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after a guerrilla uprising brought an end to repressive Serbian rule.
But Belgrade still regards Kosovo as a breakaway province and flare-ups between Belgrade-backed minority Kosovo Serbs and central government have stoked fears of a return to conflict.
The EU plan does not commit Serbia to acknowledging an independent Kosovo but it would recognise documents such as passports, diplomas and licence plates. Serbia would also not block Kosovo's membership of international bodies.
A tough issue for talks on the implementation annex, where both sides are looking to placate domestic critics, is a proposed association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.
"We hope that we will be able to get one paper, one document that will be agreed on the 18th," EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak told reporters after meeting Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti.
He was to travel next to Serbia for talks with President Aleksandar Vucic.
(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)