A couple walks past a traffic sign in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, March 2013.
Hazir Reka / Courtesy Reuters

This week, after months of negotiations, Kosovo and Serbia finally reached an agreement to normalize relations, clearing the way for both parties to move ahead with their applications to join the European Union. For years, progress had been held up by Serbia’s refusal to accept Kosovo’s February 2008 declaration of independence. The accord marks the end of the West’s two-pronged strategy in the region: on the one hand, persuading Belgrade to recognize Kosovo's independence formally; and on the other convincing Pristina to grant the Serbian community in Kosovo’s northern reaches a separate status. Drawing on the time-honored principle of "don't ask, don't tell," these crucial status issues were left aside.

Under the terms of the agreement, Belgrade acknowledged that the government in Pristina exercises administrative authority over the territory of Kosovo -- and that it is prepared to deal with Pristina as a legitimate governing authority. It

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