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news 08 Mar 13

PM Fuels Serbian Confusion Over Kosovo

Serbia's Prime Minister has added to the air of confusion over government policy towards Kosovo with media issuing his contradictory-sounding statement.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic faces charges of inconsistency over Kosovo, after media on Thursday issued a contradictory-sounding reports of his statement on the former province.

"Tales were told; lies were told that Kosovo is ours," Serbian media outlets quoted him as saying on Thursday afternoon.

Later that day, however, the same media reported Dacic as having actually said that Serbia "will not give up [its claim to] Kosovo even at the cost of getting an EU [accession talks] start date".

The Prime Minister's confusing-sounding remarks - or perhaps the media's selective reporting on those remarks - hint at the continued anguish many Serbs feel over whether Belgrade's claim to Kosovo should be surrendered, or at last watered down, in order to expedite EU accession talks. 

Although Kosovo declared independence in 2008, Serbia continues to bitterly contest this. So far, Kosovo has been recognised by 97 out of 198 UN member states, including the US and 22 of the 27 EU member states.

At the same time, Serbia obtained EU candidate status in March 2012 and is hoping to obtain a start date for accession talks in June.

Normalisation of relations with Kosovo is the EU's main precondition for Serbia as it continues to pursue EU membership.

A new survey suggests that about 63 per cent of Serbian citizens accept that Kosovo is in practice an independent state - and that Serbia can only fight now to secure the best position for the Serbs still in Kosovo.

About one third of citizens, 32 per cent, say Kosovo is not independent while 5 per cent do not have an answer.

The survey of 1,003 people was conducted by B92 TV and by the agency Ipsos Strategic Marketing.

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