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Serbia: Belgrade 'must choose between Kosovo and EU membership'

last update: September 14, 13:34

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Belgrade, 14 Sept. (AKI) - Belgrade must choose between Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, and European Union membership, German MP Andreas Shokenhoff said on Thursday, reiterating his country's position.

Serbia won official EU candidate status in March, but Shokenhoff told a press conference in Belgrade Serbia would have to sign a “binding agreement” on establishing “good neighbourly relations” with Muslim-majority Kosovo before opening accession talks with the EU.

Similar messages have been coming from Berlin and other European capitals for the past year, but Serbian leaders had tried to play them down, claiming that Serbia could keep Kosovo and become a member of the EU at the same time.

Shokenhoff, a leading figure of the ruling Christian Democratic Union, said Serbia was deluding itself that it could ignore messages from Germany and other EU states and think it could join the bloc and retain Kosovo.

He spelled out seven conditions Belgrade would have to meet in order to join the EU including abolishing the “parallel institutions” Belgrade still operates in the Serb-populated northern Kosovo and the “normalisation of relations” with Pristina.

Shokenhoff's message came as a “rude awakening,” according to analysts.

Analyst Predrag Simic said Serbia’s prospects of joining the EU now looked “very remote and extremely uncertain”.

Former prime minister Vojislav Kostunica, a staunch opponent of Kosovo's independence, told media that Serbia's former president Boris Tadic’s pro-western policy had been pure deception and the new government elected in May should declare “political neutrality” and give up on the EU membership.

Tomislav Nikolic, an ultranationalist turned pro-European who formed a new governing coalition after the May polls has pledged to continue on the European path without recognising Kosovo, a goal that now seems impossible, analysts said.

“The demand to sign an agreement on good neighbourly relations and seven conditions put forward by the Bundestag (German parliament) push Serbia into a position to choose between Kosovo and the EU,” Ognjen Pribicevic, former Serbian ambassador to Berlin was cited as telling media.

Belgrade daily Vecernje novosti said on Friday the country's top leaders would would hold meetings in the next few days to try and forge a common position on Kosovo.

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