Serbia Says Kosovo Concessions Needed as EU Deadline Looms

Serbia wants international diplomatic pressure on Kosovo to make concessions before a mid-April deadline to improve mutual ties and the Balkan nation’s European Union membership chances.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic will meet Kosovar Premier Hashim Thaci on March 4 for a new round of EU-mediated talks and wants Thaci to grant Serbs in Kosovo “political and other rights,” including powers in education, judiciary and police in Serb-dominated municipalities, said Marko Djuric, the foreign policy adviser to the Serbian president. The new round marks “a crossroad,” Djuric told reporters in Belgrade today.

“It seems necessary for the most influential members of the international community to encourage Pristina to be constructive, to be prepared for a compromise and to be ready to make certain concessions to achieve a mutually acceptable solution,” Djuric said. “It is not in Pristina’s interest to be hostage to a policy that is not ready for the dialog.”

Serbia, a candidate for EU membership since March 2012, may get a date for the start of formal talks by June if it shows enough progress in mending ties with Kosovo, the European Commission said on Dec. 12. It also needs to link its economy deeper to the rest of Europe after the civil wars of the 1990s stunted the region’s transformation from communism and attract investments to increase employment.

Dacic leads a team to Brussels “with a sincere desire to reach an agreement and a compromise,” including solutions to fit the existence and powers of the new Serbian community in Kosovo both in Serbian and Kosovar law, Djuric said.

‘Lasting Solution’

The premier wants to find a long-term solution during his term for Kosovo, the breakaway province that declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by more than 90 states worldwide, including 22 of 27 EU members.

“If we want a sustainable and lasting solution, we cannot have one side entirely dissatisfied and the other that believes they can have it all,” he said.

The EU-sponsored talks between Serbia and Kosovo need to be completed before April 16, when EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton reports to the European Parliament, and Djuric said there seems to be “no political or formal reason” that would stand in the way to getting the date for talks.

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