U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the top Democratic on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement regarding the landmark agreement achieved today between Kosova and Serbia to normalize ties.
"I congratulate Kosova and Serbia for reaching this landmark agreement. In particular, I would like to recognize Prime Minister Hashim Thaci for his courage and willingness to make hard decisions, and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic for his pragmatism and forward leaning vision. The personal involvement and leadership of European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Lady Ashton has been critical to this historic agreement. It sends a clear signal of hope to a region which longs for an end to conflict and to peoples who want to live their lives in peace and prosperity in the European Union. This is yet another affirmation of the fact that Kosova is independent, sovereign and free.
It has been nine years since the EU declared at the Thessaloniki Summit that "[t]he future of the Balkans is within the European Union." Croatia's July entry into the EU validates this strategic vision. Following today's agreement, it is time for the EU to buttress the confidence of the other Balkans states that their day is near, including Kosova. It is the shared aspiration of EU membership that binds the Balkans states together. Today's agreement underscored a local understanding that the region will only prosper when all the states of the Balkan have joined the European family.
The EU, as it offers Serbia a date for EU accession negotiations, must also offer Prishtina what other Balkan countries have already been granted: a Stabilization and Association Agreement to guide Kosova's European orientation and visa liberalization to give Kosova's citizens the right to travel in the EU. The EU non-recognizers -- Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain -- must now affirm Kosova's sovereignty. Their failure to recognize Kosovo will not only delay Kosovo's progress to the EU, but Serbia's as well. The Dialogue aimed to ensure a prosperous, EU-based future for both the people of Kosovo and Serbia. Today was a great signal that the future of the Balkans can be bright, but much work still lies ahead."