Slovakia supports Serbia on Kosovo, EU

BELGRADE -- Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič started his official two-day visit to Serbia on Thursday.

Tadić, Gašparovič in Belgrade today (FoNet)
Tadić, Gašparovič in Belgrade today (FoNet)

Gašparovič has met with President Boris Tadić in the Palace of Serbia, after which the two presidents held a joint press conference.

The Slovak presidnet said that his country supports Serbia on EU integrations, and on Belgrade's position on the status of Kosovo.

He said that Bratislava will not recognize Kosovo even if the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in the case currently before it turns out to be negative for Belgrade.

The only way for Slovakia to recognize Kosovo, Gašparovič continued, would be if Serbia did the same.

That, he concluded, "would be illogical".

"Our position on Kosovo and Metohija has not changed. We have sent our opinion to the court in The Hague [ICJ] and we hope that the outcome will be positive for Serbia," the Slovak president told reporters in Belgrade.

Tadić thanked Gašparović for the principled support that Slovakia is offering to Serbia in the process of EU integrations and to the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty in Kosovo, and appraised that Belgrade and Bratislava never enjoyed a higher level of relations.

Tadić also stated that he expects the Interim Trade Agreement (ITA) between Serbia and the EU to be implemented "after the positive report from Serge Brammertz", but warned against complacency and "getting ahead of ourselves with celebrations".

The trade deal is part of the SAA which Serbia has been unilaterally applying since early this year.

The Serbian president revealed that the Slovak delegation today signed a protocol on energy sector cooperation with their Serbian counterparts that should enable for more Slovak investments.

Both presidents expressed their satisfaction with the position of the Slovak ethnic minority in Serbia, and announced they would tomorrow take a trip together to Vojvodina, where they will speak with the local Slovak leaders.

Gašparovič thanked Serbia "not only for the moral but also for the economic support" offered to the country's Slovak community.

Asked whether it is realistic to expect Serbia to meet all the conditions to join the EU by 2014, Tadić said it was more important to reach European standards in all spheres than to "set deadlines".

"Serbia will never accept nor recognize the independence of Kosovo and Metohija, and that cannot be a condition for joining the EU. Anyhow, I have received such assurances from all my European interlocutors in the past year, and as far as I'm concerned there is a very clear position of the state of Serbia," he said.

The Serbian president added that Belgrade will also not accept "any partition of Serbia's territory".

Tadić stated that cooperation with the EU mission in the province, EULEX, has been "more positive than negative", and that he expects the mission to work on establishing the rule of law.

Gašparovič also met with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković today. They took part in the Serbia-Slovakia business forum, held at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS).

Slovak support

Gašparovič told Belgrade daily Politika in an interview ahead of his visit that fact the report of Chief Hague Prosecutor Serge Brammertz to the UN Security Council says he is satisfied with Serbia's cooperation is a positive development that the EU cannot ignore.

The Slovak president also said he hoped that the Interim Trade Agreement, the ratification process of the Stabilization and Association Agreement and Serbia's EU accession will be unblocked in December at the meeting of EU foreign ministers.

According to Gašparovič, the pace of EU admission is primarily in the hands of Serbia and depends on the speed and consistency of fulfillment of conditions and criteria.

"I am certain that Serbia has one of the leading positions among the prospective EU member states. Slovakia is willing to share with Serbia its experience in the EU integration process and functioning in the European structures," Gašparovič said.

Regarding the Kosovo debate before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Gašparovič said that his country did not recognize the unilateral proclamation of independence given that it happened without Belgrade's consent and in violation of the principles of international law.