UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [UN profile] released a statement [text] on Friday welcoming a landmark agreement between Serbia and Kosovo regarding membership in the European Union (EU) [official website] that he hopes will help bring stability to the Balkans. The agreement [text], negotiated in Brussels on Friday, states that both countries agree not to block each other's efforts to obtain EU membership and allows for ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo to have their own police force and appellate court. It also provides for an association of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo that will "have full overview of the areas of economic development, education, health, urban and rural planning." Serbia still has not agreed, however, to recognize Kosovo as an independent country even though Kosovo's parliament approved a Declaration of Independence [text; JURIST report] in 2008. Ban congratulated and commended the leaders of the two nations and stated that he "hopes that the agreement will bring about a brighter future and lasting stability to the region." He also encouraged both sides to continue their cooperation in implementing the terms of the agreement.
Tensions have remained high between the two nations since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, partly due to Serbia's refusal to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation. Last year EU Kosovo officials arrested six Serbian officials [JURIST report] in Kosovo, alleging that they were "suspected of exerting undue pressure ... not to recognize Kosovo institutions." In 2010 Serbia's parliament passed a resolution [JURIST report] stating that it would never recognize Kosovo as an independent nation. This resolution was passed days after the International Court of Justice [official website] ruled that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate international law [JURIST report]. The day after Kosovo signed its declaration in 2008, the US and EU member states all recognized Kosovo [JURIST report] as an independent country. In 2007, however, Serbia's parliament officially rejected Kosovo's plan [JURIST report] for autonomy.