The Irish Times Daniel McLaughlin Oct. 31, 2012
THE EUROPEAN Union and United States have told Serbia and Kosovo that only through establishing stable, peaceful ties with each other can they move towards membership of the EU.
On joint visits to Belgrade and Pristina, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton insisted Kosovo’s independence was non-negotiable, but that Serbia did not have to recognise the sovereignty of its former province to seek better relations.
“The United States urges all parties to continue to work to implement the agreements reached to date, reach agreements in new areas, and advance concrete measures to normalise relations,” Ms Clinton said in Pristina.
“It calls for political will, even courage, but by moving forward on this path, Kosovo and Serbia will be aided in their efforts to tackle other urgent matters, like strengthening their economies and creating opportunity for their people.” The two envoys arrived in Kosovo after meeting Serb president Tomislav Nikolic and prime minister Ivica Dacic in Belgrade.
“Kosovo is an independent nation,” Ms Clinton said after meeting the men, who have repeatedly vowed never to accept the independence of mostly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo.
“The borderlines of Europe will not change. But there is still a great deal that can be accomplished by Serbia and Kosovo working together,” Ms Clinton added.
Mr Dacic welcomed the fact that “the EU is not forcing us to do what we can’t, which is to declare Kosovo’s independence. But what we can do is to definitely make visible and sustainable progress in our dialogue with Pristina.
“We are committed to resolving all outstanding issues,” he added. “Serbia will do what is necessary to fulfil criteria to get the date for the start of EU accession talks.” Belgrade hopes to be given an official date to start accession talks during Ireland’s presidency of the EU in the first half of next year.
Kosovo formally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after Nato bombing ended a bloody Serb crackdown on the region’s ethnic-Albanian separatist rebels and the United Nations took over administration of the province.
“The dialogue is the only path that leads to the European Union,” said Kosovo prime minister and former rebel leader Hashim Thaci yesterday.
“The normalisation of the relations between the two countries is in the interest of Kosovo, Serbia and the region.”