German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Thursday warned Serbia that it had no chance of joining the European Union unless it adopted a “co-operative” stance on Kosovo.
Westerwelle said after talks with Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic that the future of the Western Balkans lies in the EU but underlined that the bloc wouldn’t take on new members that have festering external disputes.
“In our view, one can only be a member of the European Union if one aims for cooperation and is prepared to resolve neighborly difficulties co-operatively,” he told reporters when asked about Serbia’s position on Kosovo.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared last month after the International Court of Justice issued a non-binding opinion that Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia didn’t violate international law.
The dispute is heading for a showdown at the United Nations next month, with duelling resolutions that Serbia and Kosovo aim to present at the General Assembly.
Kosovo, with its 2 million inhabitants–more than 90% of them ethnic Albanians–unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 after U.N.-brokered negotiations to resolve its status failed.
The ICJ opinion was sent to the U.N. and Kosovo hopes the General Assembly will back its secession despite Serbia’s fervent opposition.
Serbia has submitted a new resolution on Kosovo calling for fresh talks on all outstanding issues but at the same time condemning Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.
Westerwelle, who also held talks with President Boris Tadic and opposition leaders, said during a discussion with students who have studied in Germany that Kosovo’s breakaway was an established fact Serbia would have to accept.
“Kosovo’s independence is reality,” he said. “There is no point in denying the facts.”
He said the EU was willing to help broker direct talks between Serbia and Kosovo to resolve the dispute and criticized Serbia for taking the issue to the U.N.
“When someone in Europe wants to solve something including conflicts…the road should first lead to Brussels not to New York,” he said.
Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by 69 countries, including all major world powers except Russia and China.
Westerwelle is on a three-day tour of the former Yugoslavia. He is due in Sarajevo later Thursday.