Kosovo eyes EU membership in 2015
Two months after unilaterally seceding from Serbia, Kosovo has made it clear it wants to join the EU, setting 2015 as its accession goal.
"After independence, our national aspiration is to join the EU," Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday (23 April).
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"This is our goal, our forecast and our commitment," Mr Kuci added, while describing EU membership as Pristina's "top priority" and a "way to prosperity, democratisation, and more security."
Kosovo is set to seek "clear signals" on its eventual membership prospects as early as next week's meeting EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg (28-29 April) - something that could cause a political headache, given that a number of EU member states refuse to recognise the infant country.
Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia are seen as most reluctant to approve Kosovo's unilateral move towards independence.
Mr Kuci said his country would seek recognition by all EU capitals in order not to be blocked later in the "long and toilsome" accession process.
"We need to deal more with political activities - especially with integration of minorities - and stability of the institutions and parliamentary governance, to fulfil Kosovo's commitments towards the international community," Mr Kuci said.
He cited the economy as the biggest challenge, saying Pristina needs to turn from a survival economy to a competitive one.
Serbia's EU perspective still frozen
In a separate interview with AP news agency, Ramush Haradinaj - former prime minister and ex-commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s - suggested that Pristina should reach out to the Serbian minority to win its support for Kosovo's independence.
"At this stage, we should present a proper offer as well as interpret that offer in a good way toward the Serbs in the north with the benefits that will come if they join and accept that offer," Mr Haradinaj said.
EU foreign ministers are next week also due to discuss Serbia's EU bid, currently hanging by a thread.
Belgrade was in February offered an interim political agreement on closer trade relations, relaxed visa requirements and educational cooperation, but the offer was turned down by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
Referring to the deadlock, Slovenian President Danilo Turk said on Wednesday (23 April) that the bloc was likely to wait until after the country's elections on 11 May, the outcome of which is seen as crucial for Serbia's further EU integration.
"Whatever happens has to be based on respect of the Serbian readiness to deal with this issue. We have to take their elections seriously and we should not see the European element as decisive," he was cited as saying by Reuters.
Many member states have been pushing to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Belgrade - the first step towards EU membership - but the Netherlands and Belgium firmly oppose such a move.
The two countries say that Serbia must first fully cooperate with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, meaning arresting and handing over war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic.