PM: EC report phrasing puts dialogue in jeopardy

Ivica Dačić says the European Commission (EC) demand for Serbia to respect "the territorial integrity of Kosovo" could bring an end to the Kosovo dialogue.

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug

"I am fairly upset with this statement, since it could close the Belgrade-Priština dialogue, instead of helping (re)start it," the prime minister told reporters during a news conference, called after EU's representative in Serbia delivered the EC report on Serbia's progress in EU integrations, and added:

"Perhaps it would have been more honest to ask Serbia to recognize Kosovo than to recognize (its) state integrity."

Dačić specified that the "upsetting" formulation was not in fact contained in the EC report, but "in another EU document". However, he did not reveal which document he had in mind. Reporters found out during the day that it was the one dubbed, "Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2012-2013".

The Serbian prime minister also noted that he would ask EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule - who is due to arrive in Belgrade - to comment on whether the "territorial integrity" reference represented a new condition for Serbia, and stressed that the country found new conditions "unacceptable".

"Serbia was ready to engage in political dialogue as early as in October, but this now begs the question of whether it merely represents a softer alternative to a recognition of Kosovo, because I never came across territorial integrity without sovereignty," said Dačić, and added:

"Serbia truly has no intention of using violent means to violate what represents Kosovo and Metohija's administrative lines, but I understood it that we wish for a dialogue and relaxation of relations, a status-neutral dialogue, rather than to be helping Priština complete its unilaterally declared independence. If this formulation has been misinterpreted by us, we will be ready to continue the dialogue with Priština."

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians unilaterally declared independence in early 2008, but Serbia rejected the proclamation as illegal and considers the territory its province.

The prime minister also expressed his surprise at the lack of understanding shown for Serbia's efforts in its bid to join the EU and "normalize relations with Priština".

In its report presented in Brussels, the European Commission did not recommend giving Serbia a date for the start of its EU membership talks. Instead, the report recommended that Serbia should "improve its relations with Kosovo".

"It's about partition"

Stefan Fule reacted to the controversy before he arrived in Belgrade in a statement given to Tanjug, to say that the reference found in the document was there in order to stress that the EC was opposed to any partition of Kosovo.

The formulation about Kosovo's "territorial integrity" does not prejudge its status, the EU official said, but rather shows that the the EC was against its partition.

"The territorial integrity is not linked to Serbia, that term is not linked to Kosovo's status. It's a clear signal that the Commission does not want a partition of Kosovo," the news agency quoted Fule as saying.

Politics

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