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Citing ‘unacceptable’ attacks on German peacekeepers in Kosovo, Angela Merkel says Serbia does not meet the conditions to obtain EU candidate status.
“At the moment Serbia does not meet the conditions of the EU accession process,” Merkel said ahead of the forthcoming EU summit on December 9.
According to Deutsche Welle, the German Chancellor described the recent conflicts in Serb-run areas of northern Kosovo as unacceptable and recalled that good cooperation with neighbours was one of the criteria for EU enlargement.
|Kacin: Merkel could change her mind
The EU Rapporteur for Serbia, Jelko Kacin, told Balkan Insight that there is still a chance that German Chancellor Angela Merkel may change her position before December 9.
“It’s good that Belgrade and Pristina have resumed dialogue and that the [negotiating] teams are still in Brussels. But concrete agreements must be made,” he said.
“Until the first barricades are removed – there will be no changes,” Kacin added.
He explained that Merkel’s stance was the stance of the EU, not Germany. “The EU believes in freedom of movement for people, goods and ideas. This freedom does not coexist with barricades and they should be dismantled.”
Kacin believes that if the barricades in north are dismantled, Merkel may yet support Serbia’s EU candidacy.
“There is always a chance. MEPs yesterday sent a letter calling on EU top officials to set a date for opening accession talks with Montenegro and approve Serbia’s candidacy and we wouldn’t have done that if we don’t believe it could happen,” he said.
“Good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation are a part of the European Union enlargement policy according to the Copenhagen criteria,” she said.
“In the long term we do not want only Serbia but also Kosovo in the European Union… Therefore, Serbia’s path to the European Union leads only through normalization of relations with Kosovo,” she stressed.
Merkel repeated that she was “very sorry that Serbia has not met those expectations so far and therefore has not fulfilled the preconditions for obtaining of the candidate status”.
The German leader said Serbia had “contributed to an atmosphere in which German KFOR troops were attacked and wounded with firearms in the previous days…I say it is unacceptable.”
Clashes between Kosovo Serbs and KFOR troops have been going on for weeks at the administrative crossings between Kosovo and central Serbia and on Monday two German soldiers were shot at.
Kosovo Serbs have been protesting since July over the Kosovo government’s deployment of officials on the border with Serbia. Clashes started after peacekeepers moved in to remove some roadblocks leading to and from the border crossings.
Serbia recently started playing down its earlier support for the Serb protesters in Kosovo but the about-turn clearly came too late to change minds in Berlin.
Serbia promises action:
On Friday, Kosovo and Serbia teams were back at the negotiating table after two days of talks failed to result in an agreement on borders and on Kosovo's international representation.
Borislav Stefanovic, Serbia’s chief negotiator, said his team would submit concrete proposals to resolve the remaining dispute.
“No one can say that Serbia is obstructing dialogue,” he said. “If we can find a solution today then this will be a successful day, if not, we are ready to continue dialogue,” he added.
Adding to Serbia’s headache over Kosovo, Austria voiced support for the German position, saying it also had doubts about Serbia’s candidacy.
The Austrian Foreign Minister, Michael Spindelegger, said on Friday that Vienna expected Serbia to take tough steps including the arrest of any persons suspected of using force against KFOR troops.
“We'll wait and see whether the steps are taken in the coming days and based on that we will decide whether to support granting Serbia candidate status,” he said.
In Belgrade opposition liberal parties slated the government’s handling of the dispute in northern Kosovo. Cedomir Jovanovic, head of the small Liberal Democratic Party, said President Tadic’s call for Kosovo Serbs to remove their barricades had come far too late. “It is difficult to find arguments that will convince Europe to grant Serbia candidate status," Jovanovic said.
Vuk Draskovic, head of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said Serbia’s President would have to take responsibility for the affair and urged him to act immediately to ensure the success of Serbia’s candidacy bid.
"Serbia must accept integrated management of all border crossings with Kosovo, guarantee freedom of movement and trade, accept Kosovo's participation in international meetings and deny any, political and financial support to extremists in the north of the province [of Kosovo] who have raised the barricades and encouraged dangerous conflicts," he said.
However, the Serbian Orthodox Church, SPC, has also issued a statement calling on Kosovo Serbs to remain on the barricades. The church urged the government not to abandon the Serbian people in northern Kosovo over the business of EU candidacy.
No breakthrough on borders or Kosovo's international representation emerged from the latest EU-mediated talks but Serbia is pushing for negotiations to continue.
In the Vellusha area of Prishtina, men in beards and women in full veil are a common sight, as hard-line Muslims stake a claim to part of the Kosovo capital.