Serbia Resists German Pressure Over Kosovo

New statement of German conditions for Serbia’s further EU progress, related to Kosovo, revives tension between Germany and Serbia.Oliver Ivanovic, Serbia’s former state secretary for Kosovo, said German demands for Serbia to establish “a contractual relationship” with Kosovo were a red line that Belgrade could not cross.The retort comes after Andreas Schockenhoff, a member of the German Bundestag and senior official of the Christian Democratic Union, CDU, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, said in Belgrade on Thursday that, before any EU accession talks started, Germany expected Serbia and Kosovo to sign a joint, legally binding statement on mutual relations, which would be implemented by the end of entry talks.Germany also expects implementation of agreements reached with Kosovo so far, and agreement on a continuation of the dialogue beyond the existing planned topics, he said.

Finally, Germany expects Serbia to stop funding Belgrade-run so-called “parallel structures” in northern Kosovo.

Ivanovic said that these conditions were not unexpected, as they reflected Germany’s position on Kosovo. Germany is one of 22 EU member states which recognized Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

But he described some of the German politician’s conditions as unacceptable.

“Insisting on some sort of contractual relations with Kosovo … is a red line that neither this, nor the previous [Democrat-led] government, would cross under any circumstances,” he said.

Ivanovic noted that, according to Serbia’s 2006 Constitution, Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia, so backing down on that idea would represent a violation of the Constitution.

Rasim Ljajic, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, meanwhile described some of the demands as “disengaged from reality”.

“This is the position of one [German] parliament member, that should not be minimized in any way, however, we know the conditions for [obtaining a date for EU membership] negotiations,” Ljajic added.

According to him, it would be “very complicated” to fulfill the conditions related to implementation of existing agreements as well as contentious issues concerning telecommunications and energy.

The demands were only the latest in a series of messages from Germany in the past couple of weeks about how Serbia should arrange its relations with Kosovo, he noted.

On September 4, Martin Schulz, German President of the European Parliament, was blunter, saying that “Serbia should recognize Kosovo if it wants to join the EU”.

However, the head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Vincent Degert, has downplayed these remarks.

He described the latest statement as just one opinion, representing the stand of the ruling party in the German parliament. Any final decision on Serbia’s EU entry talks will be delivered by the EU heads of state and government, he noted.

“The European Commission is the one that gives a recommendation [on starting accession talks], though the opinions of national parliaments are also taken into account,” Degert told reporters on Friday.

He said that Belgrade and Pristina should meanwhile engage in further dialogue, and agree, on their own, on what kind of agreement they would like to reach.

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