BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Kosovo's ethnic Albanian government must take action now to protect its Serbian minority, the European Union's foreign policy chief told new Kosovan Prime Minister Agim Ceku on Wednesday.
"For a long time there has been a lot of talk but not much action. I think we have to reverse that now, to talk less and act more," Javier Solana said after talks with Ceku.
"I insist very much that ... this is fundamental."
Full protection of the 10 percent Serbian minority in Kosovo is essential for talks launched in February on the status of the Serbian province to move forward, an EU official said.
Still legally part of Serbia, the province of 2 million people has been run by the United Nations since 1999 when NATO drove out Yugoslav forces accused of atrocities against Albanian civilians in two years of fighting with separatist guerrillas.
Ceku, a former guerrilla commander, pledged to work on the EU's demands to enhance Serbian minority rights and build trust.
"We would like to make gestures in the coming months to send signals that we are very clear on integrating minorities," he told reporters.
"We are very clear on wanting Serbs to stay in Kosovo, to be equal, to be free, to be secure, and to love Kosovo and make (it) home and to treat Kosovo as home as well," Ceku added.
A third round of talks between Kosovo Albanians and the Serbian government on the status of Kosovo, mediated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, is set for April 3.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was the first senior minister to say this month that Kosovo's path to independence from Serbia was "almost inevitable".
Western powers want the Albanians to make concessions first to the Kosovo Serbs, isolated and targeted by sporadic violence since the end of the war, when half the Serb population fled.
After their second round of talks last week, Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians clashed over the extent to which Kosovo Serbs should run their own affairs and enjoy special ties to Belgrade.
Serbia has proposed creating a Serb entity within Kosovo. The Albanians say this means ethnic partition and are proposing a more modest decentralisation without links to Belgrade.
"The differences are enormous," said Albanian negotiator Blerim Shala.
Serbia has accused Ceku, 45, a former senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), of murder and terrorism. He was named prime minister by Kosovo's parliament on March 10.