Serbia Won’t Take U.S. Pressure on Kosovo, President Says

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said he won’t accept any pressure from the U.S. as the Balkan nation seeks to normalize relations with Kosovo and begin talks to join the European Union.

Serbia “has made great progress and is open to doing even more” and “rightfully expects to start talks with the EU,” Nikolic said in Belgrade before a meeting tomorrow with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Rome, where both will attend the inauguration Mass of Pope Francis.

“The meeting with Biden comes at the U.S.’s request,” Nikolic told reporters today after meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule. “I would treat any pressure as an indecent form of discussion.”

Fule is in Belgrade to meet with Serbian leaders and will travel to Kosovo’s capital of Pristina as part of his Balkan tour. It comes less than a month before EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due to report on Belgrade’s bid to improve Kosovo ties that will decide whether Serbia gets a start date for EU entry talks.

“I know the question on your mind at this moment is will Serbia really get the date for starting the negotiations in June” to join the EU, Fule said. “The answer depends on the efforts in delivering on reforms and on the one key priority: progress toward a visible and sustainable improvement of relations with Kosovo.”

Kosovo Pressure

Serbia has asked for international diplomatic pressure on Kosovo to make concessions. Premiers Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci of Kosovo will meet in Brussels March 20 for a new round of EU-mediated talks.

“Obviously, we are facing the weeks when we will have to make very important and major political decisions,” Dacic told reporters in Belgrade after meeting with Fule, adding that Belgrade is also hosting a delegation of Germany’s Bundestag “which has its own conditions for Serbia to get a date for the start of talks.

Serbia wants Thaci to grant Serbs in Kosovo ‘‘political and other rights’’ including in education, the judiciary and police in Serbian-dominated municipalities.

To obtain a date for EU entry talks, Fule said Serbia must show improvements on the judiciary, fighting corruption and discrimination, media freedom and helping vulnerable groups.

Dacic, who took office in July, has said that he wants to achieve a long-term solution on Kosovo, the breakaway province that declared independence in 2008. Kosovo has been recognized by more than 90 nations, including 22 of the EU’s 27 members.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gordana Filipovic in Belgrade at gfilipovic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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