Stop moving the target on Kosovo, Serbian PM tells EU
(LONDON) - Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic has urged European countries to stop setting new conditions on the vexed issue of Kosovo as he tries to steer his nation to EU membership, in an interview with AFP.
Dacic complained that "you never know where the finish line is" in negotiations with Brussels over Serbia's efforts to join Europe's elite club.
He conceded that delegates attending a forum in London on Tuesday aimed at attracting foreign investment to Serbia would be looking for it to join the European Union as a prerequisite for pumping in money.
"The most important thing in our negotiations on EU membership is not going to be an internal issue, but Kosovo," Dacic said.
"For this reason we need to always keep in mind that we should work on the normalisation of relations (with Kosovo) and also on the implementation of agreements that were reached in Brussels."
Serbia has made a series of concessions on Kosovo, the territory which sparked a war between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian rebels in 1998-1999, but it remains the main stumbling block in the membership process.
Having delivered two key war criminal suspects to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Serbia was granted EU "candidate status" in March 2012.
After the EU-brokered deal with Kosovo on the normalisation of relations between Serbia and its former province in April, Belgrade was given the green light to begin membership talks with Brussels.
Serbia expects the negotiations to start in January.
"We don't ask for any privileges; the only thing that we ask for is not to introduce new criteria on top of the criteria and benchmarks that have already been set," Dacic said in the interview Monday.
"We are constantly facing this problem of moving targets -- you never know where your finish line is," he said, blaming "some member states" for introducing new requirements.
He urged Kosovo's minority Serb population to vote in local elections on Sunday, in the face of a campaign of opposition from many Serbs there who vehemently reject the territory's self-proclaimed independence.
"They should go and vote at these elections, not to help and assist Pristina but to elect the authorities which are going to be legal and legitimate and which would be recognised by Belgrade, Pristina and Brussels as well."
Another barrier to the EU throwing open its doors is corruption, which the prime minister promised to fight "swiftly and strongly".
In a bid to reassure potential investors, he said new legislation would be introduced to combat corruption and simplify the red tape that discourages foreign companies.
"Serbia wants to create this legal basis for all investors, to provide guarantees that we are not going to have any corruption," he said.
But Dacic admitted he had few expectations that Tuesday's forum would spark a flood of new investment from Britain.
"The expectations are to renew our relations with Britain in the economic and political sense. We cannot expect a great boom or a lot of companies rushing to Serbia and investing," he said.
"We will insist on emphasising the comparative advantages of Serbia and show the investors that we can provide something that is going to be in our mutual interest."