Nikolic: Recognition of Kosovo not negotiable
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Tuesday 29 May 2012
Serbia is on a “long and uncertain” path to joining the European Union, President-elect Tomislav Nikolic told Russian leader Vladimir Putin, on 26 May. But recognising Kosovo’s independence would be a deal-breaker even when it comes to EU membership, he said while in Moscow.
After his meeting with Putin, Nikolic told media representatives that if the EU made Kosovo’s recognition a precondition to entering the bloc, it would mean “breaking off negotiations [towards EU membership] at that very moment”.
Serbia’s former pro-European President Boris Tadic had adopted the same stance regarding Kosovo province during his eight years in office. But the recent election of Nikolic – once close to “the butcher of the Balkans,” Slobodan Milosevic – has raised concerns in Europe over his true aspirations to join the bloc. The ex-ultranationalist has indeed said in the past, before taking a pro-European turn, that Serbia would be better off becoming a Russian province than joining the EU.
While welcoming Nikolic’s election, the EU warned the new president that continuing to engage with the Kosovo authorities and “normalising relations” with the Southern province was a necessary step on the path towards EU membership. However, Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo has never been a precondition to EU accession. The bloc itself is divided on the issue, with five of the 27 member states – Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain – not recognising Kosovo’s independence.
Nikolic is expected to visit Brussels for his first official visit as president of Serbia once he has officially sworn into office. According to EU sources, he could meet EU leaders on 12 June.