Serbia not ready for EU, says Merkel
BERLIN / BELGRADE
KFOR soldiers aim a riot gun toward Kosovo Serbs during clashes. REUTERS photoGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel said clashes between NATO soldiers and Serbs on the border with Kosovo showed Serbia was not yet ready to be a candidate for European Union membership.
“The path of Serbia into the EU can only lead through the normalization of its relations with Kosovo,” Merkel told the German parliament. “I regret that Serbia has so far not lived up to these expectations sufficiently and therefore the conditions for being awarded the status of a candidate are not yet in place.”
Thirty German and Austria soldiers were injured Nov. 28, some by small-arms fire and Molotov cocktails, when hundreds of Serbs resisted an attempt by NATO peacekeepers to remove roadblocks erected by Serbs in the largely lawless north of Kosovo.
Western diplomats have warned the turmoil in Kosovo could cost Serbia official candidate status for membership of the EU when the bloc’s leaders next meet on Dec. 9. Merkel said it was “unacceptable” for Serbia to contribute to the tense atmosphere surrounding the attack on the international Kosovo Force (KFOR) soldiers, Reuters reported.
The Serbian government meanwhile appealed to Kosovo Serbs to remove border roadblocks, urging all sides to avoid further escalation of the conflict. The government statement was released as its representative in Brussels was talking to Kosovo counterparts in a bid to reach an agreement on the two disputed border crossings in northern Kosovo.
An EU official said Serbia and Kosovo made “some progress” in talks but no agreement was announced on an EU proposal on management of the contested border, Agence France-Presse reported. The EU proposed that crossings be placed under the joint management of Serbia and Kosovo, with members of the European rule of law mission EULEX -- combining officials and police -- overseeing the posts.