Serbia proud, wants to meet EU conditions: Tadic
(BELGRADE) - Serbia is proud at the successful evaluation of its reforms and is determined to continue dialogue with Kosovo in order to gain EU candidate status, President Boris Tadic said Wednesday.
"I am proud because the European Commission considers as very successful reforms carried out by Serbia," Tadic was quoted by state-run Tanjug news agency as saying.
The president was "convinced that it is possible for Serbia to get a candidate status in December and to open perspectives for a starting date for accession talks."
In its yearly report on the progress made by candidates for entry into the EU, the European Commission said "Serbia is ready to become a candidate country" and added that Belgrade "will be ready to start accession negotiations as soon as further good progress is made."
It notably called for progress in talks with Serbia's breakaway southern province of Kosovo, which began last March but are currently suspended due to trouble on their border.
Tadic said Serbia was determined to resume the dialogue.
"Serbia wants to solve problems (on the border crossings) and wants a realistic solution," Tadic said.
However, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Serbia's policy towards Kosovo "will not change as a result of the European Commission's opinion."
"We are committed to our European path as well as to find a compromise solution for Kosovo, therefore we are committed to dialogue," Jeremic said.
"These are two different processes and the first one could not influence another, as far as we are concerned," he said after meeting his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini.
Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic hailed the report and recommendations.
"Serbia remains committed to European integrations and will continue to work in that direction," Cvetkovic told reporters.
Many in Belgrade's streets welcomed the news, but called on politicians to explain what it meant.
"Their words are full of Europe, but I think we ordinary people have no idea what are the advantages and benefits, and what are the shortcomings of joining EU," said 55-year-old greengrocer Rastko Dinic.
Bookseller Marko Vojnic, 32, said in a time of global economic crisis he was "not as positive as before that it is a good idea to join the European Union.
"Maybe it's better to turn to our own resources and people."
Support for EU integration stands at 46 percent, the lowest level since 2000, a recent survey showed.
Desanka Nikolic said she hoped it "would bring a new chance in life, more opportunities for education and later work" for her children.
"It is important for them to live in a properly-structured country after their childhood was marked with wars and poverty," said the 59-year unemployed clerk, referring to the 1990s Balkans conflict.
Dozens of members and supporters of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical party gathered to protest in front of the Serbian presidency building under the motto.
Police stopped them handing in a letter to Tadic saying that his pro-Western policy had "failed completely" and accusing the government of "giving up" Kosovo.
Belgrade has been under increasing pressure to resolve its problems with Kosovo from EU members like Germany which have said real progress in the talks is a condition for membership.
Since March, the European Union has brokered negotiations aimed at solving technical issues between Pristina, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and Belgrade which refuses to recognise it.
The EU-sponsored dialogue was interrupted late September following a new wave of violence in northern Kosovo where the Belgrade-backed Serb population is concentrated.
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