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Kosovo leader says EU has double standards on Kosovo, Serbia

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo's president accused the European Union on Friday of maintaining double standards for blocking a visa-free travel deal with his country but opening new chapters in Serbia's integration process despite its affiliation with Russia.

Hashim Thaci said Serbia's leader visited Russia the day NATO was holding its summit, "in a clear message of their orientation." Kosovo is a former Serbian province that broke away after a war in 1998-99, and Serbia does not recognize its 2008 declaration of independence. Relations between the two countries are tense.

Speaking at an international conference in Berlin, Thaci said Kosovo deserves the visa-free regime as it has fulfilled all EU-set terms. “While Kosovo is blocked in the visa liberalization and (North) Macedonia and Albania are blocked in launching negotiations (with the EU), Serbia is promised (the opening of) new chapters,” he said.

The six western Balkan countries are at different stages in their quest to join the EU. While Montenegro and Serbia have already opened accession talks, the bids of Albania and North Macedonia to start the membership process were blocked in October by some EU members led by France.

Kosovo is the last former eastern European country not enjoying visa-free travel to EU member states. A year ago Kosovo set a 100% tariff on Serb and Bosnian goods in retaliation to Belgrade's efforts to block its recognition in the world and joining the international organizations.

The move has stalled the EU-facilitated Kosovo-Serbia talks that started in 2011 which the block considers fundamental for both countries in their integration path.

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