Serbia, Kosovo leaders defend EU-backed accord

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic urged the European Union on Sunday to open its arms to Belgrade as he and the leader of Kosovo defended an EU-backed deal aimed at normalising their relations.

Dacic and Kosovo's prime minister Hashim Thaci appeared together at a forum on Europe at Gottweig Abbey in Austria hailing their achievements in bringing about the accord between the two former foes 14 years after the war in Kosovo.

But Dacic said Serbia had to be rewarded for its actions.

"I believe we have achieved more than anyone expected in Pristina, Belgrade, Vienna and Brussels," said Dacic, whose government is pushing for the EU to give Belgrade a date for beginning accession talks.

"If we do not get a positive response from the EU, I do not know what we should do more," he said. "If not now, when the EU be ready?"

The governments of Serbia and Kosovo last month approved an implementation plan for their April agreement setting out a timetable for resolving a number of sensitive issues including organising local elections for the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo, most of whom oppose Belgrade normalising relations with Pristina.

Relations between the two sides have remained strained since the war and in particular since Pristina unilaterally proclaimed independence in 2008, a move rejected by Belgrade.

"The time has come to normalise our relations," said Thaci. "We want to build a new Kosovo, a European Kosovo. Our goal is to be part of the European-Atlantic project."