It took twelve hours of intense negotiations to untangle a dispute that has almost 25 years of life and roots in long centuries of hostility. But in the end the agreement is there - a first agreement, partial and informal but not at all obvious: thanks to the patient mediation of the European Union.

The announcement in fact came through the voice of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Defense Policy of the EU, Josep Borrell: "Kosovo and Serbia have agreed to the application of the annex to the agreement for the process of normalization of relations". Behind the technical-diplomatic language, the green light for the recognition by the two countries of their respective official documents, so that citizens can travel freely and that Serbia does not prevent Kosovo from joining international organizations.

On the eve the forecasts were not rosy. Even under pressure from Serbian nationalist streets, Belgrade had reiterated that it would never recognize Kosovo and would not help it enter the United Nations. Moreover, Kosovo, with a predominantly Albanian ethnicity, was born from a war of independence against the Serbian state: that of 1998-1999 which caused 11,800 civilians killed and <>,<> displaced and which was resolved only after the armed intervention of NATO that bombarded Serbia for a long time. Kosovo is accepted as an independent state by about half of the UN member states, but major powers such as Russia and China have never recognized it.

EPA/Stephanie LECOCQ

Josep Borrell

Borrell had scheduled a meeting with the leaders of the two countries in Ohrid, North Macedonia: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti. The aim is to draw up a roadmap for the implementation of the normalisation plan for relations already presented by the EU on 27 February. There has been no official signature, but Kosovo and Serbia "are fully committed to respecting all articles of the agreement and implementing them in good faith," Borrell said. Non-compliance with the agreement "would have negative consequences" in Serbia's accession process and Kosovo's rapprochement with the European Union, including financial aid from Brussels.

The European proposal was "more ambitious", Borrel confesses. But it also announces that Kosovo has committed to start negotiations "immediately" with the EU to cede an "adequate level of autonomous management" to the Serbian community of the country - one of the points of maximum friction especially in recent months, given that Kosovo's insistence on exercising widespread sovereignty over the whole territory even by banning the use of Serbian plates had triggered the revolt of the Serbian population (but within the borders of Kosovo) and induced Belgrade to Alarm the army several times.

There has not been, as we said, an official signing of the agreement. Kosovo "lacks flexibility," Borrell said, and Serbia "refused to sign something as a matter of principle," despite being willing to implement the agreement.

But the first step has been taken and it is no small thing.