BLED, Slovenia (Reuters) - Kosovo expects to reach a deal with Serbia which will enable both countries to progress toward joining the European Union by next spring at the latest, Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj said on Tuesday.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Serbia has still not recognized it as a sovereign state and relations between the two remain tense.
An agreement is a precondition for both countries to join the European Union. Belgrade and Pristina committed to an EU-sponsored dialogue in 2013 but little progress has been done.
When asked when he expects the deal to be reached, Hoxhaj told Reuters: “I think either by the end of the year or next spring we should be so far.”
Speaking on the sidelines of a political and business forum in the Alpine resort of Bled, Hoxhaj said Kosovo could only sign a deal which includes recognition.
“We cannot sign any other deal,” he said.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic “is the last man in Serbia whom we trust”, he said.
But he expressed the hope that trust could be built during the negotiation process, saying there was no one else to negotiate with as “he is controlling everything in Serbia”.
He said he could not say what the deal will include but indicated that the possible land swap between the two states was still on the table.
“What kind of elements the agreement might have is pretty early to say because we are in the early phase of negotiations,”
Hoxhaj said giving no details on the possible land swap areas.
(This story corrects paragraph 1 to Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj instead of Foreign Minister)
Reporting By Marja Novak, Editing by Angus MacSwan