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Balkan countries to remove roaming charges by 2021

Six Balkan countries have signed a European Union-backed agreement to remove roaming charges by 2021 as part of efforts to boost cooperation in the region.

The agreement was signed Thursday by Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo during a summit on digital technology in Belgrade, Serbia. It envisages a gradual reduction of roaming prices by 27 percent from July 1 and the eventual establishment of a roaming-free zone.

The deal comes amid ongoing tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008 but whose statehood Belgrade refuses to recognize.

Serbia and Kosovo must normalize relations to advance their bids to join the EU. The two sides have blamed each other for a halt in EU-mediated talks on solving the decades-long dispute.