Serbia has been urged not to link closer ties with the European Union to the bloc’s future role in the breakaway province of Kosovo. The warning from the European Commission came after Serbia’s prime minister last week said the EU would have to choose between Belgrade and Pristina.
Yet Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, after talks with Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, has followed this up saying that Kosovo’s future status and the European integration of Serbia cannot be linked.
A spokesperson at the Commission placed the ball squarely in Serbia’s court: “The stabilisation and association agreement is not something we impose on any country. It is a recognition of a privileged relationship with the EU, and it brings very tangible and concrete benefits for the citizens of the country. The Commission wants to help Serbia towards the EU, but ultimately it is in the hands of the Serbian people and their leaders to ensure that the conditions are met.”
The debate on EU ties is important in Serbia’s January 20 presidential election campaign. Nationalists are defending Belgrade’s sovereignty over UN-administered Kosovo – with its overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population – in the context of their drive to declare independence unilaterally.