German MPs' statements that Serbia will not get a green light to join the EU unless it recognises Kosovo have shaken Belgrade, which has rushed to clarify the remarks.
Serbian officials have gone into overdrive following Wednesday's remarks in Belgrade by a delegation of German parliamentarians, who said that Serbia would have to recognize Kosovo's independence as part of its EU accession talks.
If not, Germany will not approve its accession to the bloc, they said. Following the arrest and handover of the wartime Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, on May 26, many EU officials said that Serbia had removed the main obstacle to its EU accession. EU ministers are supposed to discuss Serbia's candidacy on October 12. The issue of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 and is recognised by 22 of the EU's 27 member states, has never been cited as a formal precondition for Serbia's EU integration. But the German MPs said recognition of Kosovo, which Serbia claims as a province, would need to happen for Serbia to close negotiations on EU membership. The promise of EU membership is a prime card in the hand of Serbia's ruling Democratic Party as it heads towards general elections expected in spring 2011. To preserve the picture of this scenario, top officials rushed to "explain" the Germans' statements. Bozidar Djelic, Deputy Prime Minister, said Germany wanted a solution to the Kosovo issue to be found - but was aware that Serbia will never recognise Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence. "Germany does not in any way request Serbia's recognition of Kosovo," he maintained. This clarification was followed by Borislav Stefanovic, head of Serbia's negotiating team with Kosovo. He said the first concrete results of the talks could be expected early next month at the next regular meeting of the two delegations in Brussels. "Our teams talk every day and we are also in communication with the European Union, which sees the whole thing as very constructive," he explained. Vuk Jeremic, Serbian Foreign Minister, also addressed the Kosovo issue after meeting the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, assuring both that the EU would not set any new conditions for Serbia and that Serbia would never recognise Kosovo's independence.