Serbia, Kosovo Need Good-Neighbor Ties, German Lawmaker Says

Serbia needs to pursue good relations with its former province of Kosovo to make progress toward European Union membership, a German lawmaker said.

Serbia, which became an EU candidate in March, faces “great challenges ahead” and announcing the date for the start of membership talks is less important than the continuation of required reforms, said Gunther Kirchbaum, the chairman of the German Parliament’s European Affairs Committee.

Both “Germany and the Bundestag see Serbia in the European Union but Serbia can only cross that road on its own” and the EU is willing to assist, Kirchbaum told reporters in Belgrade today after meeting with Suzana Grubjesic, Serbia’s deputy prime minister in charge of EU affairs.

Serbia marks today the 12th anniversary of the ouster of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic, whose Socialists rose to power after May 6 parliamentary elections and formed the government together with former nationalists.

“It is not only the wish of Germany but also of the European Union that good-neighborly relations between Serbia and Kosovo are achieved” because “we don’t want a new Cyprus in the EU,” Kirchbaum said. “Conflicts must be resolved.”

European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule will be in Belgrade on Oct. 10 to present this year’s progress report on Serbia. Grubjesic said the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, which took office on July 27, will have to take “bold steps” by spring when Serbia faces its “next chance” to win a date for the start of entry talks.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy told Dacic on Sept. 4 that Serbia also needs to make the economy more competitive, reform the judiciary, safeguard media rights and crack down on corruption and organized crime, to advance toward the EU.

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