By Bojana Barlovac
Serbia’s new President has set off for Brussels on a visit seen as important for Serbia’s future EU progress.
In a first visit after his inauguration on Monday, President Tomislav Nikolic has travelled to Brussels to discuss Serbia’s EU integration with EU officials.
He is due to meet European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and the EU Council President Herman van Rompuy.
Ahead of the trip, Nikolic said that he will demand a clear answer from EU officials on whether the EU expects Serbia to recognise Kosovo’s independence before it can start accession talks.
Serbia became an EU candidate country on March 1 and was told that further progress will depend on “normalisation” of relations with Pristina.
“I expect to finally find out in Brussels what no one in Serbia has heard so far, which is whether the EU insists on Serbia accepting Kosovo’s independence in order to continue its path towards the EU,” Nikolic said.
Nikolic started his presidential term with a meeting with leaders of the Serb-run northern part of Kosovo at which he showed them documents on the controversial Brussels-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina.
Belgrade and Pristina started EU-mediated talks in Brussels in March 2011. So far, the two sides have reached deals on freedom of movement, recognition of university diplomas and representation of Kosovo at regional meetings.
Nikolic has also pledged to raise the negotiations with Pristina on the political level and to include Kosovo Serbs in Serbia’s negotiating team.
Dusan Janjic, head of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, said Brussels will tell Nikolic to do more to solve the issue of violence in Serb-run northern Kosovo.
Northern Kosovo is currently run by local Serbs under a system of so-called “parallel institutions”, which Belgrade finances.
“Success in the eyes of Brussels will be only one election being held in Kosovo in 2013, including the North, and with those elections being organized by the Kosovo authorities,” Janjic explained.