24 August 2011, 10:49

What does EU want from Serbia?

What does EU want from Serbia?
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The recent aggravation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is another sign that it is still too early to call the Balkan crisis a thing of the past.  In late July, a detachment of Albanian special forces took two checkpoints at the Kosovo-Serbian border by storm. But Serbs who live in northern Kosovo liberated the checkpoints.

The recent aggravation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is another sign that it is still too early to call the Balkan crisis a thing of the past. 

In late July, a detachment of Albanian special forces took two checkpoints at the Kosovo-Serbian border by storm. But Serbs who live in northern Kosovo liberated the checkpoints. As a result, one Albanian was killed and several Serbs wounded. This was the biggest clash in the Balkan region in the last few months.

International missions, who are de jure responsible for stability in that region, turned out to be powerless. NATO sent 700 more servicemen to assist them.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to former Yugoslavia. Now, what can she – and the world community as a whole – do to bring peace to that long-suffering region? To discuss this question, Russian and German experts set a video bridge between Moscow and Berlin.

Ms. Merkel is not the first German official who comes to former Yugoslavia in these latter days. In early August, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visited Kosovo. The Balkan region is in the sphere of Germany’s interests mostly because former Yugoslavia is now facing economic difficulties.

German expert on southeastern Europe Franz-Lothar Altmann says:

“The recent incident on the Kosovo-Serbian border worries Germany very much. The Balkan region is still terra incognita for the EU. The EU doesn’t know yet what it could do to bring peace to that region.”

Despite the fact that the self-proclaimed state of Kosovo has been recognized by 79 countries, Russia does not recognize it. The status of an independent state must be deserved, and Kosovo has still done too little to deserve it, Russia believes.

Here is Russian expert in Balkan events Elena Guskova:

“I believe that Kosovo still can’t become a fully legitimate member of the European family of democratic states. It doesn’t answer any of today’s demands for a democratic state. However, the EU seems to ignore this fact. But Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, and Ms. Merkel went to Belgrade to try to persuade Serbs to do so. Kosovan Albanians are not as diplomatic as the German chancellor – they have chosen to pressure Belgrade by force, and they attack Serbs who live in northern Kosovo. In other parts of Kosovo, there are practically no Serbs – or they live behind barbed wire, in unbearable conditions. But stirring ethnic clashes is not a very democratic way to demand a status of an independent state, is it?”

“The main aim of Ms. Merkel’s visit is to estimate the situation herself and to “advise” Serbians to recognize Kosovo’s independence,” Elena Guskova believes. 

However, German experts deny that Ms. Merkel is intending to put pressure on Belgrade’s decision. Germany has no other interests in the former Yugoslavia besides maintaining peace there, they say.

However, Russian expert Pyotr Iskanderov believes that, one way or another, the West will still leave Belgrade no choice:

“To be successful, any talks must end with some kind of a compromise,” Mr. Iskanderov says. “But it looks like Germany sees no other way to peace in the Balkans than making Belgrade recognize Kosovo’s independence. However, in fact, a compromise is quite possible here - international laws allow making both Serbia and Kosovo EU members without specifying the status of Kosovo. After all, Cyprus is also an EU member, though its status is disputable – Turkey has claims for a part of this island.”

However, in the nearest future, Serbia’s chances of joining the EU are small. The EU is always inventing some obstacles preventing that. First, the EU has demanded that Belgrade must extradite Serbs who had taken part in military actions. After Belgrade did so, the EU started to insist that now Serbia must recognize Kosovo’s independence – and it looks like this won’t be the last obstacle for Serbia to join the EU.

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