Kosovo in Focus: A Thorn on Serbia’s Road to EU

Written by | Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

The European Union insists on the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and expects to see a legally binding document regulating relations between both countries before Serbia joins the bloc. EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani said that a continued dialogue was necessary albeit he did not mention the term “full recognition“ – something many in Serbia reject upfront. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade never recognized it. The EU would now like to see a renewed dialogue between both sides, emphasizing that Serbia is key to stability in the Balkans.

There was an EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in the past but it has been on hold for more than a year. A resumption of this dialogue and its culmination in a legally binding deal are the key demands of the EU for Serbia to join the bloc. Serbia as a candidate country has so far opened 12 of the 35 negotiating chapters. The country’s President Aleksandar Vu?i? said of Mr. Tajani’s comments that no warnings were given but he [Mr. Tajani] spoke the truth. “The EU expects from Serbia a legally binding agreement with Pristina, after which it may join the Union,” he said. Mr. Vu?i? admitted that the issue of Kosovo is a contentious point for many Serbs, who see it as the cradle of Serbian statehood. He said it was “the hardest part of the work left” for his country to do on the road to the EU.

Since Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, international recognition of Kosovo has been mixed. As of 30 January 2018, Pristina has received 115 diplomatic recognitions but not all EU member states recognize Kosovo. Spain, a major Western European country, has not only recognized Kosovo but it is asking for its exclusion from the European Commission’s Strategy for the Western Balkans because Kosovo is not a state. Spain’s rejection was originally based on the concerns over the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence but in reality, it is mainly due to the possible implications on its own territory. Mr. Tajani commented that every EU member state has its own strategies and political opinions but added that the Union had to achieve a harmonized stance towards Kosovo and the Balkans in a unified European foreign policy.

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