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10/12/2016

Serbia fears EU will pressure Greece to recognise Kosovo

Enlargement

Serbia fears EU will pressure Greece to recognise Kosovo

The Serbian press has speculated that one of the conditions that Greece must fulfill to receive financial assistance from the West includes recognizing Kosovo, a former Serbian province which Belgrade refuses to recognise as an independent state.

The Serbian daily Blic says that there ware obvious signs that Greece’s vulnerable financial situation means that “Kosovo is a lost battle for Serbia.”

Most EU countries, except Greece, Spain, Romania, Cyprus and Slovakia, have recognised the independence of Kosovo, who seceded from Serbia in 2008 (see background).

“It would take a miracle for Greece not to recognize Kosovo in the next few months, a year at the most. A serious undertaking will have to be done by the Serbian diplomacy for Athens to give up on recognizing Kosovo, or at least to prolong it,” the paper quoted an unnamed source.

The newspaper said that conditions that Athens will have to fulfill to get the sorely needed money are not just economic, but also political.

Political analyst Dušan Janji? is quoted as saying that Kosovo’s recognition by Athens “will arrive as early as in the fall”. He added:”Tsipras will play pragmatically. He will recognize Kosovo in order to delay the issue of Macedonia’s name. Due to the bad situation, he won’t be able to conduct his own policy. He will have to make concessions, and in this case it will be recognizing Kosovo.”

The European External Action Service would like Greece to recognise Kosovo and to solve the so-called ‘name dispute” with Macedonia, which prevents this country from advancing toward EU accession.

Serbia takes the same position as the EU on Macedonia, but not on the Kosovo issue.

Macedonia declared independence from the dissolving Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991.

Seen from Athens, the official name used by Skopje – the Republic of Macedonia – is an open challenge to the Greek region of Macedonia. In retaliation, Greece vowed to veto Macedonia’s participation in international organisations, including the EU, until the issue is resolved.

Although Macedonia is recognised as the country’s constitutional name by most EU countries, the name dispute with Greece has led to an impasse for the country’s membership of both the EU and Nato.

The UK, Poland, Romania and 13 other EU countries call the country Macedonia, while France, Germany, Spain and 9 other EU members call it the “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” or FYROM.

Asked to comment on the press speculation, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Da?i? said that there were no signs that Greece would change its position regarding Kosovo, and that high-level visits between Belgrade and Athens would take place soon.

“As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I should pay an official visit to Greece in October. Tsipras should have visited us earlier but due to the problems in his country, he announced that he would come later,” Da?i? said.

Background

Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008, nine years after the end of a 1998-1999 war between Belgrade's security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. In the following years, Kosovo was an international protectorate patrolled by NATO peacekeepers.

After Kosovo declared independence in February 2008, the two million-strong republic, 90% of whose population are ethnic Albanians, established many of the trappings of statehood, including a new constitution, army, national anthem, flag, passports, identity cards and an intelligence agency.

However, the Serbian-populated northern part of Kosovo (the area of Mitrovica) remains largely outside the control of Pristina.

Most EU countries, except Spain, Greece, Romania, Cyprus and Slovakia, have recognised the independence of Kosovo. Of all UN members, 110 have recognised Kosovo so far.

In December 2008, the EU deployed a rule of law mission, dubbed EULEX Kosovo, with the intention of taking over post-crisis management in the territory. The aim of the operation is to assist and support the Kosovo authorities with the rule of law, specifically regarding the police, the judiciary and customs.

The EULEX mission is the largest EU civilian mission ever launched. The 3,000-member operation has the power to take on cases that the local judiciary and police are unable to handle.