Serbs to say "No" to EU over Kosovo independence
( Reuters ) - The Serb parliament is expected to adopt a resolution on Wednesday implicitly rejecting membership of the European Union and NATO if the West recognizes the independence of Kosovo.
It has the backing of President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who lead the two main parties in Serbia's governing coalition, and is likely to win support from hardline nationalists of the opposition Radical Party as well.
It states that "all international accords that Serbia will sign, including the SAA, must be in keeping with the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country."
The SAA is the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the first treaty the EU signs with would-be members. The EU is offering Serbia a fast track to membership once Kosovo is resolved, but this resolution would bar its acceptance if the breakaway province secedes with Western backing.
Serbia is offering Kosovo's 90 percent Albanian majority broad autonomy, a separate life short of full self-determination for its two million people and with no role in Serbia. The Albanians plan to declare independence in the first months of 2008, and have broad Western support.
Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 after 11 weeks of bombing by NATO forced it to withdraw its troops, ending a ruthless counter-insurgency campaign in which 10,000 civilians were killed and 800,000 driven out of the country.
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and patrolled by a major NATO-led peacekeeping force ever since. The EU is now preparing to take over the UN supervisory role, with a police and judicial mission, and NATO is staying on.
"Because of the overall role of NATO ... parliament decides that Serbia will declare military neutrality when it comes to existing military alliances, until a possible referendum when the final decision would be made," the resolution states.
"Parliament determines that forming an EU mission in Kosovo ... would endanger the sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional order of Serbia," it says.
Any such mission must have U.N. Security Council approval, which is currently unattainable. Serbia's main ally, Russia, is threatening to veto any resolution Serbia does not accept, and in nearly two years of talks Serbia has not accepted any form of independence for Kosovo.
With Moscow's help, Serbia has thus frustrated what the West considers the only solution that can bring peace and stability to the Balkans.
The parliamentary resolution is a declaration of united defiance as Serbia approaches a presidential election sure to be dominated by the issue of Kosovo versus EU membership. Polls indicate most Serbs want EU membership and Kosovo too.
President Tadic, still seen by some in Brussels as Serbia's leading pro-Westerner, backed the threat to reject the EU offer to sign the SAA early next year.
"The resolution essentially gives up neither our European future nor Kosovo, and those are two cornerstones of my politics," Tadic said.