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Serbia: EU Relations Near Collapse Over Kosovo

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica rejected the EU's treaty offer (epa) BRUSSELS -- Serbia's relations with the EU are teetering on the brink of collapse after Belgrade spurned an EU offer to cement ties.

In response to Boris Tadic's reelection as Serbia's president on February 3, the EU offered a cooperation treaty that would have reaffirmed Serbia's future in the bloc, and offered concessions linked to visas, trade, and educational exchanges. Tadic wants to pursue closer relations with the EU regardless of the fate of Kosovo.

However, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said this week the EU's offer was made in bad faith and aimed at prizing Kosovo from Serbia.

The EU issued a terse statement on February 7 calling on Serbia to sign the new agreement "in the following days."

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in Brussels on February 6 that Kostunica's decision goes against the will of the Serbian people. "I deeply regret the obstruction by certain politicians in Belgrade in blocking the signature tomorrow," Rehn said, referring to a planned meeting that Serbia called off. "In my view, they have really failed to hear the voice of the Serbian people who voted last Sunday in favor of Serbia's European future, in favor of better lives, better citizen's rights."

EU sources told RFE/RL that Serbia's government appears to be split on the issue, with Kostunica overruling coalition partners keen to develop ties with the EU.

The EU is likely to approve a 1,800-strong mission of legal and law enforcement advisers to Kosovo when the bloc's foreign ministers meet on February 18. Rehn said that Kostunica's objections to the mission run counter to his earlier promises not to let Kosovo affect Serbia's ties with the EU.

"Not so long ago, Prime Minister Kostunica asked me to keep Serbia's European integration process moving forward and not to make any linkages between the EU process and the Kosovo process. I am disappointed that he has turned down his own commitment," Rehn said.

Russia entered the fray on February 6, when its ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told journalists that Kosovo will be "a thorn" in EU-Russia dialogue. Russia is blocking UN agreement on Kosovo's independence.

A number of EU member states -- led by Spain and Cyprus-- are skeptical about Kosovo's independence. But EU officials say the bloc's legal support mission to Kosovo will go ahead regardless of Serbia's objections.

However, there could be a snag if Russia succeeds in persuading UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon not to give the EU mission his support -- which Moscow will attempt to do, according to Chizhov. The EU is proceeding under the assumption that the mission will need a green light both from Pristina and the UN secretary-general.

RFE/RL Balkan Report

RFE/RL Balkan Report


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