By Bojana Barlovac
Angela Merkel will start an official visit to Belgrade on Tuesday, the first to Serbia by a German Chancellor in eight years.
Serbian President Boris Tadic will welcome Merkel on August 23, following weeks of hightened tension between Belgrade and Pristina over the troubled north of Kosovo, a subject which is likely to be at heart of discussions.
After the official welcome, Merkel and Tadic will have a meeting behind closed doors in the Palace of Serbia.
The press in Belgrade has speculated that the aim of Merkel’s visit is to set an ultimatum to Belgrade to recognise Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008, or give up Belgrade’s hopes of joining the EU.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said that the German Chancellor will discuss international, bilateral and economic issues, bringing Serbia into the European Union and developments in the region, particularly in Kosovo.
Germany has been a strong supporter of Kosovo. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said two weeks ago in Pristina that the borders in the region would not be negotiated.
Ognjen Pribicevic, former Serbian ambassador in Berlin, believes that Germany expects Serbia to normalise relations with Pristina and continue negotiations on border crossings, custom stamps and other matters affecting the lives of people in Kosovo.
According to him, there will be no ultimatums. “Germans do not need us – we want into the EU,” he said.
Merkel will also arrive with a large business delegation. Some 250 German companies operate in Serbia and have invested 1.5 billion euro and employed some 20,000 people.
The last German chancellor to visit Serbia was Gerhard Schroeder in 2003.