EU enlargement strategy steps up pressure on Belgrade to respect Kosovo's territorial integrity.
By Muhamet Brajshori and Igor Jovanovic in Pristina and Belgrade -- 20/10/2012
Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said the new EU requirement amounts to recognition of Kosovo, something President Tomislav Nikolic outright rejects. [Reuters]
While laying the groundwork for additional Belgrade-Pristina talks, the EU has set conditions for Serbia and Kosovo to work on improving relations to continue their respective Union accessions without blocking one another in the process.
But the EU added a request for Serbia in this year's enlargement strategy to respect Kosovo's territorial integrity, a condition Serbia opposes.
Last month, Andreas Schockenhoff, deputy head of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) parliamentary group, went to Belgrade to discuss the conditions.
"What we expect by the beginning of negotiations is a written statement that Serbia and Kosovo are ready to achieve during the process of enlargement talks a legally-binding normalisation of relations," Schockenhoff told SETimes.
Such a treaty must be reached between the two states and implemented in practice before Serbia concludes the EU accession talks, he said.
Schockenhoff urged both sides to continue the dialogue and implement the already reached agreements and further show relations are improving.
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said the new requirement will jeopardise the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
"Serbia was ready to engage in political dialogue as early as October, but this now begs the question of whether it merely represents a softer alternative to a recognition of Kosovo, because I never came across territorial integrity without sovereignty," Dacic told B92.
Many in Serbia view the CDU conditions as a fiasco created by the previous and current governments.
"[They] are forcing Serbia to choose between the EU and Kosovo," Ognjen Pribicevic, former Serbian ambassador to Germany, told SETimes.
The Serbian government, however, said the conditions are not official EU conditions, according to Suzana Grubjesic, deputy prime minister for European integration of Serbia.
"It is not good at this stage of the EU-integration process for anyone to set a condition before us that both know Serbia cannot meet," Grubjesic said.
Pribicevic argued that the West wants to wrap up the Kosovo issue as soon as possible.
"Serbia has a small chance given the fact this is still not the official stance in Brussels, but given the US and German power it is difficult to believe Brussels can have a different policy," Pribicevic said.