Vucic Says French, Germans Squeezing Serbia To Swap Kosova Recognition For Quick EU Entry

BELGRADE — President Aleksandar Vucic says France and Germany have encouraged Serbia to allow its former province Kosova to join international institutions and organizations, including the United Nations, in exchange for early membership in the European Union.

He quickly added that such a solution was unacceptable to Belgrade and contravened Serbia’s constitution.

Neither Paris nor Berlin has confirmed the offer of any such quid pro quo deal.

“The bottom line is that Serbia allows Kosovo to join all international institutions and organizations, including the UN,” Vucic told a press conference in Belgrade on October 8. “For that, Serbia would get quick entry into the EU and probably significant economic benefits.”

Vucic and his ruling Progressive Party (SNS) consistently reject Prishtina’s 2008 declaration of sovereignty and have waged a decade-long campaign to discourage others from recognizing Kosova, which fought a war of independence from Serbia in 1998-99.

Serbia’s constitution declares that the overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian Kosova is part of Serbia, although more than 100 countries recognize its independence.

But he also acknowledged damage that Belgrade’s position might be doing to Serbia and the possibility that the costs might eventually outweigh Serbian objections.

“We will stick to [our Kosova policy] until the the damage caused to Serbia is so much greater that we would have to accept a different reality,” Vucic said. “Maybe a future government will make a different decision.”

Vucic said Serbia would face consequences if it recognized Kosova and he regretted accepting EU facilitation of efforts to resolve Kosova’s final status, a process that has been continuing intermittently for a decade.

“Since then, regardless of the signed Brussels agreement, we have not been able to put the formation of the Union of Serbian Municipalities on the agenda,” Vucic said in reference to Prishtina’s continuing opposition to formalizing structures in majority-Serb northern Kosova supported diplomatically and financially by Belgrade.

Vucic said Serbia’s position on Kosova was increasingly complicated “because the Western countries will try, as they think, to solve the problem of Kosovo in one way or another by Kosovo joining UN and because they think that way they would solve intra-European matters.”

He also said the West is seeking to eliminate an argument frequently cited by President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials to defend Moscow’s actions.

Russia has leveraged its diplomatic support for Belgrade in the Kosova dispute into trade, weapons, and other ties, in addition to citing it in criticism of Western decisions or justification for Moscow’s actions.

Vucic said Serbia will maintain its refusal to impose sanctions on Russia, a position that has raised tensions given Serbia’s candidate status for EU membership and ongoing accession talks.

A handful of EU countries including Spain, Slovakia, and Romania also don’t recognize Kosova.

Vucic suggested EU member and sometimes ally over ethnic issues in the former Yugoslavia Croatia was an “unreliable partner” as evidenced by events around an eighth EU sanctions package against Russia.

The Serbian president earlier accused Zagreb of removing a paragraph that would have granted Serbia and other landlocked Western Balkan countries an exemption allowing them to continue receiving Russian seaborne crude oil.

He said as part of its energy-diversification efforts, Serbia planned to build a $100 million oil pipeline toward Hungary, whose nationalist populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been accused of democratic backsliding and cozying up to Putin.

Another plan would see a pipeline via North Macedonia the Albania’s Durres port.

Vucic said on October 8 that “at the moment Serbia has eight notes on the withdrawal of recognition of Kosovo.”

He noted that Kosova’s admission process to the Council of Europe is expected to begin next month. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)