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news 08 Jun 15

US, Germany Put Conditions on Serbia Support

The US and Germany want Serbia to cut its energy dependence on Russia, follow EU foreign policy, and allow Kosovo to join the United Nations, sources have claimed.

Igor Jovanovic

Following Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s recent visit to Washington, a source close to his ruling Progressive Party told BIRN that the US has set several conditions for Belgrade to fulfil in order to ensure investments in Serbia and Washington’s support for its EU integration.

According to the source, American officials were primarily interested in the ways Serbia could reduce its energy dependence on Russia.

The source said US companies could invest in the exploitation of copper and gold near the town of Bor in eastern Serbia, and might be interested in deposits of lithium in western Serbia.

Vucic’s government was also asked to follow European Union policy on relations with Russia, the source also said, as well as not to support Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik, who has announced a possible referendum on secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Michael Kirby, the US ambassador to Belgrade, told Serbian public broadcaster RTS on Sunday that Serbia enjoyed Washington's political support in its EU integration process, but would have to "do its homework".

Kirby said that Serbia has to make progress in the rule of law, fighting corruption and addressing certain issues with Kosovo.

Serbian newspaper Blic also reported on June 4 that during Vucic’s visit to Washington, US officials also urged him to “clearly define Serbia’s path towards NATO” but also to participate in the coalition fighting against Islamist militancy actively rather than just verbally.

According to the Blic, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to visit Belgrade in early July, will bring two “clear demands” for Serbia - to allow Kosovo to have United Nations membership and to agree to constitutional changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina which would reduce the jurisdiction of the Serb-led Republika Srpska entity.

According to Blic’s report on Monday, the possibility that Kosovo could become an UN member does not imply that Serbia recognises its independence. But move is seen as necessary in order for Kosovo to become a member of the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and perhaps ultimately the European Union.

Belgrade analyst Dusan Janjic said that the German requirements are "not pressure but reminder for Serbia to fulfil its obligations".

"By signing the Brussels agreement [to normalise relations] with Kosovo, Serbia committed itself that it would not hinder Kosovo's membership of regional and the international organizations... Enabling membership of the UN for Kosovo does not necessarily mean that Belgrade recognises its independence," Janjic told BIRN.

Upcoming talks between Serbian and Kosovo officials in late June could be the point at which Brussels decides that Belgrade has made important progress.

"If there is significant progress, the EU could decide on the opening of the first chapters in the negotiations with Serbia," Janjic said.

The European Parliament's rapporteur for Serbia, David McAllister, said that the talks on June 23 will be decisive for the opening of the negotiating chapters with Serbia this year.

"In order to open the first chapter during this year both sides will have to demonstrate progress... and the next round of dialogue in Brussels will be crucial," McAllister told reporters in Belgrade on Monday.

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