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News 20 Mar 13

Germany Pushes Serbia Harder on Kosovo

German ruling parties say Serbia must manifest 'a visible wish' to normalize relations with Kosovo if it wants to get a start date for EU membership talks.

BIRN Belgrade

Germany's two ruling coalition parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union, have told Serbian politicians to move faster over Kosovo if they want to get a start date for EU membership talks.

“The precondition for a start to negotiations is a clearly visible will to normalize relations with Kosovo,” Andreas Schneckenhof, of the CDU, said in Belgrade.

Explaining what “visible will” might mean, Schneckenhof said that he was referring to “a meeting of both presidents or prime ministers who declare either in writing or in front of the cameras that they want to normalize relations".

A similar German delegation visited Belgrade last September, when it demanded implementation of agreements reached with Kosovo and agreement on a continuation of the dialogue beyond the existing planned topics.

Germany also says that Serbia must stop funding so-called "parallel structures" in northern Kosovo.

Speaking about the progress on EU benchmarks reached so far, Schneckenhof said that Serbia's new government had made “significant progress” and that “a lot has improved.”

He specially greeted “the historical meeting between Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and his Kosovo counterpart, Atifere Jahjaha”.

German support is crucial for Serbia, as Berlin is currently grouped among those countries that are most sceptical about granting Serbia EU membership.

“Germany is in a specific situation in terms of internal politics as elections take place in September, and it unlikely that the government will at this moment vote for [further EU] enlargement,” an EU source told Balkan Insight.

Recent polls in Germany show that only about 20 per cent of the population favour further EU enlargement. Serbia obtained EU candidate status in March 2012.

In December, EU foreign ministers said they could not recommend a start date for Serbian accession talks until they saw more signs of progress in the EU-led dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

The European Commission is currently drafting a progress report on Serbia that will be published on April 16. On the basis of the report, the European Council will decide on June 28 whether to grant Serbia a start date for accession talks.

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