05 June 2007

EU Pressures Serbia On Forming Government, Kosovo

Deutsche Presse Agentur, 05:38 PM, February 7th 2007


A top-level EU delegation arrived in Belgrade Wednesday to encourage Serbian politicians into a pro-European government coalition and urge them to be "constructive" in the run-up to the final decision on the future of Kosovo.


EU's top diplomat Javier Solana, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, along with Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Manuel Lobo Antunes, foreign ministers of Germany and Portugal, were to meet President Boris Tadic and caretaker Premier Vojislav Kostunica.


Germany holds the rotating presidency of the European Union and Portugal is next in line, scheduled to take over at mid-year.


Brussels wants to see Serbia move past stalemate - the country is without a parliament, with no new cabinet in sight, and its approach to the EU is suspended. Making matters worse, Serbia faces the loss of its "heartland" province Kosovo under a new UN plan.


The EU last May froze the process aimed at building closer links with Serbia because of Belgrade's reluctance to arrest war crime suspects.


Local media said that EU officials would now offer to restart talks with Serbia if it forms a pro-European cabinet quickly and promises to capture war criminals, most of all Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic who is wanted on genocide charges.


Brussels and Washington hope that Serbian pro-European leaders will use their combined majority, won in January 21 elections, to forge a government.


Adding to the pressure on Belgrade also was Britain's Europe Minister Geoff Hoon, who separately met top Serbian officials.


The EU diplomats were also to press Serbia for a "constructive" approach in the endgame of the Kosovo status process. The UN envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, presented his plan for the province last week, outlining a path for its independence from Serbia.


Ahtisaari hammered out the plan after mediating months of futile talks between Belgrade and Pristina, in which the Serbs offered nothing more than autonomy and the majority Albanians in Kosovo demanded nothing less than independence.


Belgrade has rejected the UN plan and asked for more time to prepare for the final round of talks starting in Vienna on February 13, but Ahtisaari, the West and Kosovo's Albanians have said they want no delays.


After meeting caretaker Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, Hoon said that schedule decisions and possible delays were "up to Ahtisaari."


Before arriving in Belgrade, Solana made a quick stop in Pristina, where he reiterated that the EU was "wholeheartedly" supporting Ahtisaari's proposal and pledged continued support to Kosovo.


"The EU is ready to continue working with you ... economically, politically, on the building of institutions and also in the security field," he said after meeting President Fatmir Sejdiu.


Worried that Russia, as Serbia hopes, could block Kosovo's independence in the UN, the EU delegation visited Moscow Monday and the US envoy for Kosovo, Frank Wisner, was due there Wednesday.


Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since NATO ousted Belgrade's security forces in 1999 to end a bloody crackdown on an Albanian insurgency.