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news 01 Apr 13

Kosovo Talks Key to Serbia's EU Integration, Minister

Ahead of the eighth round of Belgrade-Pristina talks, Serbian Deputy Prime minister warns that the country's EU integration will come to a halt if the talks fail.

Beta, B92, BIRN Belgrade

Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister, Rasim Ljajic, said that if the Kosovo and Serbia prime ministers fail to agree on the planned Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo, Serbia’s EU integration process will come to a halt for at least two years.

"There will be elections in Germany... the members of the European Commission will be changed, and they will not want to deal with us while they are doing that,” Ljajic told TV Pink on Sunday.

The eighth round of EU-mediated talks, which is due to start on Tuesday, is seen as crucial for Serbia, as the outcome will affect an EU decision on whether to offer Serbia a start date for membership talks in June or not. Serbia obtained EU candidacy in March 2012.

The EU-mediated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia was launched in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence (which Serbia does not recognise).

Senior Serbian officials have been meeting regularly in the past few days to precisely define the powers for a proposed Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo.

According to the plan, 10 Serbian municipalities - four in Serb-run northern Kosovo and six from the rest of Kosovo - will transfer their responsibilities to the Association, Balkan Insight has previously learned.

The plan is in line with EU and Kosovo demands that Serbia dismantle its so-called "parallel" structures in the north, and with Serbian demands for broad autonomy to be offered to all Serb-populated areas in Kosovo.

EU officials have already expressed hope that a deal will be reached and that Serbia will be rewarded with a start date for EU membership talks in July.

If Serbia fails to reach a deal and does not get the start date for talks, Ljajic warned that it could lead to the fall of the government. This would mean a government reshuffle at the least, or even early elections, he added.

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