20th Feb 2020

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, says foreign minister

  • Borders inside Europe are no solution, says Jeremic (Photo: EUobserver)

Undeterred by the eurozone turmoil and the borders debate, Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic hopes to start EU membership talks as soon as possible, but warns that his country will "never" recognise the independence of Kosovo.

"EU accession is a strategic choice for Serbia, pursued by no matter what government is in place," Jeremic told this website in a video interview on the margins of the opening of a representation in Brussels for the Serbian city of Nis.

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As for the economic woes of the Union, "we're not going to be disheartened by these difficulties. It may take longer and more of a political challenge along the way, but that's not something that is going to change our strategic orientation," the minister said.

Since Croatia - Serbia's former arch-enemy - has just finished EU membership talks, Jeremic stressed the need to "ensure continuity" of the enlargement process and give a green light to Serbia's own membership talks.

"This is a powerful, both symbolic but also practical link that would make sure that there's no pause, no break, and that we don't let anybody become disheartened along the way," he explained.

The EU commission is likely to recommend the beginning of talks in October, but the mood among member states is sour, despite the recent positive news from Belgrade about the arrest of Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic.

A delegation of German lawmakers who visited Belgrade earlier this week warned that Berlin would never accept Serbia in the EU unless it recognises the independence of its former province, Kosovo.

Jeremic had a short answer to this: "Serbia will not recognize Kosovo. End of story."

As for the capture of Croatian Serb war criminal Goran Hadzic, who still remains at large, the foreign minister said:

"Well, 45 out of the 46 indictees were so far found, apprehended and made available to justice so they can defend themselves against the charges brought against them. The Serbian government is going to continue to co-operate fully with the Hague tribunal until there are no more indictees at large."

Potentially also affected by the current border debate since its recent visa-free regime with the EU may be suspended in case of abuse, Serbia warns against taking any measures to re-instate borders within Europe.

"Freedom of travel is one of the biggest achievements of Europe so far and erecting borders again would be a big defeat of one of the most cherished European values that did materialise in the end in the process of creating a Union," Jeremic said.

With EU leaders meeting on Friday to discuss the possibility of re-instating border controls as a "temporary" and "exceptional" mechanism in case of big migratory flows or if a country fails to secure the external EU border, Jeremic said he understood the underlying reason, but disagreed with the approach.

"I perfectly understand the concerns of EU governments: These are not easy times economically and some parts of the European neighbourhood are now very difficult places to live, resulting in a lot of people trying to leave and enter the EU," he noted.

But instead of looking at ways to re-establish - even temporarily - border controls within the EU, leaders should rather focus on strengthening the external border, so that people inside the Union can continue to travel freely. "Inside the European Union, to go back on those achievements, in a way would be a collective defeat," he warned.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS (22 June) During the inauguration of the EU representation office of the Serbian City of Nis in Brussels, the foreign affairs minister of Serbia talks to EUobserver about Kosovo, war criminals and visa liberalisation.

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