Merkel: Serbia Not Ready for EU Candidacy

Posted December 2nd, 2011 at 6:10 pm (UTC-5)
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Serbia has contributed to the tense situation in Kosovo and is therefore not yet ready to be a candidate for European Union membership.

In a speech to the German parliament Friday, Mrs. Merkel said the path for Serbia into the EU can only happen after it normalizes relations with Kosovo.

She said so far, Serbia has not lived up to those expectations, and that clashes between NATO soldiers and Serb protesters on the border with Kosovo were “unacceptable.” The violence in northern Kosovo since July has left scores of people wounded, including peacekeepers.

Serbian officials expressed hope that Germany's hard stance could be softened before the meeting of EU foreign ministers Monday when the final decision on Serbia's candidacy is expected.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said EU leaders are not focused on enlargement right now. He was speaking in Athens where he met with his Greek counterpart, Stavros Dimas. Jeremic said the EU is at a crossroads where difficult decisions need to be made which could affect the way it will function in coming decades.

But he stressed that Serbia is doing everything to realize its goal of EU membership and thanked Greece for its support.

In Brussels late Friday, negotiators from Serbia and Kosovo reached an agreement in principle on “integrated” management of their common border. The plan would guarantee free movement of goods and people. EU mediator Robert Cooper facilitated the talks. A statement with more details will be released later.

Ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, supported by Belgrade, refuse to recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence. They have been setting up roadblocks since July, when Kosovo's ethnic Albanian government tried to take control of the border area under de-facto Serb rule.

EU officials say Serbia must find a way to end the unrest on its border with Kosovo if it wants its bid for EU candidacy to move forward.