Germany aims at rapid progress on Serbia joining EU

Other News Materials 4 September 2008 21:19 (UTC +04:00)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed the hope that Serbia would soon make rapid progress in its attempt to join the European Union (EU), following talks with his Serbian counterpart, Vuk Jeremic, in Berlin Thursday, reported dpa.

But granting EU candidate status to Serbia before the end of the year "would be a bit overambitious," Steinmeier said.

Referring to a visit to Belgrade next week by Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Steinmeier said he hoped Brammertz would be "in a position to confirm Serbia's full cooperation" with The Hague-based court.

Jeremic said the talks had focused on Serbia's future in the EU, noting that there was a strong majority in Serbia in favour of EU membership.

The future of the entire Western Balkans lay in the EU, the Serb foreign minister said.

But he noted serious difficulties with many EU members, including Germany, over the status of Kosovo, which he referred to repeatedly as "Serbia's southern province."

"Germany recognizes Kosovo as an independent state and Serbia does not, and Serbia won't," he said.

"It's a very strong and firm position of the Republic of Serbia that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo has been done in violation of international law," Jeremic said.

But he stressed that Serbia would use exclusively peaceful and diplomatic means to press its case, including taking its position to the United Nations and to the UN court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In a pointed reference to last month's conflict in Georgia, Jeremic said there were "other parts of the world where militaristic attitudes prevail in resolving issues of territorial integrity and sovereignty."

"We've gone through this in the 1990s we don't want to repeat that."

Jeremic said Serbia would seek an advisory opinion from the ICJ on Kosovo's status but would not bring a law suit.

Stability and peace in Kosovo were essential preconditions for the Western Balkans to join the EU, he said.

Steinmeier made clear that Germany, having recognized Kosovo as an independent state, believed that its declaration of independence was in line with international law.