01:26 GMT +321 August 2019
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    Kosovo Serbs gather holding up their national flag as they welcome Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, surrounded by body guards, to the village of Pasjane, during his visit to Kosovo.

    'Strained' Serbia-Kosovo Talks Result in Justice Deal

    © AFP 2019 / ARMEND NIMANI
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    EU High Commissioner Federica Mogherini has hailed the deal as a "great result" of the dialogue between the two sides after a break of almost a year.

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic and Kosovan Prime Minister Isa Mustafa have signed an agreement on the composition of the legal system in Kosovo, which grants greater judicial representation to the Serbian minority in the region.

    Premier Vucic told Tanjug News that in the South Mitrovica area of Kosovo there will be 14 ethnically Albanian judges as well as 11 Serbian members of the judiciary, and that the president of the judiciary in North Mitrovica will be a Serb, which he declared a better solution than drawing representation along the ethnic lines of the Mitrovica region. Vucic also added that an even number of ethnic Serbian and Albanian prosecutors, nine each, will work in the courts.

    Mitrovica, a municipality in the north of Kosovo, became a symbol of the region's ethnic divisions in the aftermath of the 1999 Kosovan war. The Ibar River serves as the dividing line between predominantly Serbian North Mitrovica and majority-Albanian South Mitrovica.

    "The negotiations were difficult, but I think we have got the maximum out of the given circumstances," Tanjug reported Vucic as saying after the negotiations, which continued into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

    The issue of the justice system was one of several which the two sides brought to the table on Monday, the first meeting between representatives of Serbia and Kosovo since elections were held by the respective sides last year, resulting in new governments.

    Serbian politician Marko Duric told B92 that "the atmosphere at times was fairly strained," and stressed that Serbia's aim was to increase the number of Serbs in the region's judicial system, who he said have been underrepresented since 1999.

    After meeting on Saturday with Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Premier Vucic had articulated his anticipation of a difficult time at the negotiating table: "A long night awaits us," he told Radio-Television Serbia. "We are facing many challenges, and one of them is the continuation of dialogue with Kosovan Albanians."

    In April 2013 Serbia and Kosovo signed an agreement on the normalization of their relations, a key point of which was the integration of judicial authorities into the Kosovan legal framework, but with the establishment of a majority Kosovan Serb appeals court to deal with issues from Serbian areas. Serbians constitute an ethnic majority in seven of Kosovo's 38 municipalities.

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    Tags:
    Aleksandar Vucic, legal system, Kosovo, court, Isa Mustafa, Federica Mogherini, Serbia
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