22nd Oct 2016

Serbian leader would give up EU to keep Kosovo

Serbia's new President, Tomislav Nikolic, has told Russia he would give up EU membership for Kosovo, but wants to have both.

Nikolic went to Moscow on Friday (26 May) in his first post-election but pre-inauguration foreign trip.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Nikolic (l) and Putin in Moscow (Photo:

He told press after the meeting that if the EU ever asks him to recognise Kosovo's independence, then: "We cannot do that, even if it meant breaking off [EU entry] negotiations at that very moment."

He added, however: "Serbia is on the road to the EU. It is a long and uncertain road. We will order our country according to the rules that exist in the EU."

He repeated his position in an interview with broadcaster Russia Today: "Europe is a very attractive partner for Serbia and our country should fulfill almost all the conditions that the EU imposes. This process should stop only if they ask us to renounce a part of our territory: I'm referring to Kosovo."

Five EU countries - Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain - also do not recognise Kosovo.

But EU diplomats are exploring a solution in which an ethnic-Serb-controlled enclave in north Kosovo could be given some form of autonomy as a way out of the stalemate.

Nikolic told Russia Today that he is open to the idea if average Serbs support it as part of a future referendum on EU membership.

"At this moment, and from the point of view of the constitution, it is not possible. If more of the citizens of Serbia say Yes in a referendum? I don't know," he said.

On practical day-to-day relations, he added that he will continue the EU-sponsored dialogue with Pristina, but he will not meet Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci unless Thaci is first cleared of allegations of Serb organ trafficking.

He indicated that he is willing to work with Serb moderate Boris Tadic, who is poised to become prime minister.

Tadic, who lost the Serb presidency in elections on 6 May, also says he will never give up Kosovo despite his pro-EU credentials.

Nikolic is known as a nationalist who held high office under "the butcher of the Balkans" Slobodan Milosevic. But he told Russia Today that the label is unfair: "I'm nationalist, but I'm a democrat as well ... Probably a lot of time will pass till the Western press accepts me."

On Serbia-Russia relations, he said that "since 2000 Serbia has been moving away from Russia" but "the EU shouldn't think that it's our unique partner, because this way it could impose really harsh conditions."

For his part, Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Friday said: "We see Serbia as our spiritual brothers."

He noted that he is ready to loan Nikolic $800 million for infrastructure projects. But he declined to say when the money will be paid out.


Serbia and the convenient spy

The manufactured cold war between Croatia and Serbia has been a convenient distraction from some of Serbia's domestic problems.


EU's Kosovo meddling risks Balkans chaos

The EU and the US are is unfairly pressuring Kosovo to ratify a border deal with Montenegro against the will of the opposition. It could bring trouble to the Western Balkans region.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity