Merkel: Serbia Not Ready for EU Candidacy

Posted December 2nd, 2011 at 3:05 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 as a result, conditions for candidate status are not yet in place.

The German chancellor described clashes between NATO soldiers and Serb protesters on the border with Kosovo as “unacceptable.” The violence has left scores of people wounded, including peacekeepers.

Serbia's goal of joining the EU was widely considered to be in reach after the arrest of longtime wanted war criminals Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic earlier this year. But EU officials now 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.

Serbs in the Kosovo-Serbia border region 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.

NATO and the European Union on Thursday condemned the continuing attacks by ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, as representatives from Serbia and Kosovo met in the latest round of EU-brokered peace talks.

NATO welcomed Serbian President Boris Tadic's call Tuesday to remove the barricades on the northern border, but says the recommendation must be followed by concrete action. Violence broke out again Monday when Serbs fired on the peacekeeping forces as they tried to break down the blockades while using rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters.

NATO commanders said they will use lethal force if necessary to protect alliance troops, while Mr. Tadic urged the peacekeepers to stop using force to remove the roadblocks.

The Serbs' blockades are cutting off NATO access to a military base in northern Kosovo. NATO is demanding freedom of movement throughout all of Kosovo.

The ethnic Serbs refuse to recognize Kosovo's independence, declared in 2008.