BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- The Serbian government on Monday approved a potentially landmark agreement to normalize relations with breakaway Kosovo that could end years of tensions and put the Balkan rivals on a path to European Union membership.
Government spokesman Milivoje Mihajlovic said that the government approved the deal unanimously at an extraordinary session and ordered ministries to implement it.
The prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo reached a tentative EU-mediated deal in Brussels on Friday that would give Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership authority over rebel Kosovo Serbs. In return, the minority Serbs would get wide autonomy within Kosovo.
The agreement has triggered outrage among Serb nationalists who plan major demonstrations in Belgrade and in Kosovo on Monday.
Kosovo, which is considered by nationalists to be the medieval cradle of the Serbian state and religion, declared independence in 2008. Serbia has vowed never to recognize it, and Serbian officials insist that the latest agreement does not mean Belgrade has de-facto recognized Kosovo’s statehood.
On Sunday, Kosovo’s parliament voted in favor of a resolution to support the initial agreement. The Serbian parliament is expected to do the same later this week.
The agreement allows Serbs to police and manage the north of Kosovo, which is inhabited predominantly by ethnic Serbs, in exchange for nominal recognition of the authority of the Kosovo government. It also calls for the two sides not to obstruct one another as they seek eventual membership in the EU.
Serbia relinquished control of most of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO chased its troops out of the region after a three-month bombing campaign. Ending the partition of Kosovo between the Albanian majority and the Serb-controlled north—about a fifth of the country—is a key condition of Serbia’s further progress toward EU membership.
Details about how the deal would be implemented on the ground remain murky especially since Kosovo Serbs insist they will not accept any authority coming from Pristina’s ethnic Albanians.