Minister of EU Integration Jadranka Joksimovic says Serbia “will not be conditioned by recognizing Kosovo in order to become a member of the EU.”

Reacting to President Aleksandar Vucic’s statement that the EU will ask Serbia to sign a legally binding document on normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, Joksimovic said that this does not mean recognizing Kosovo.

The signing of a legally binding document is envisaged by the Brussels agreement, she told RTS, Beta reported on Friday.

Perhaps some EU members would want Serbia to recognize Kosovo, but the EU is status neutral because there are member states that have not recognized it, she added.

“Of course we can become a member of the EU if we do not recognize Kosovo. Precisely the essence of a normalization agreement is to define the normalization framework that will not force us to recognize an independent Kosovo, but which will surely mean a whole series of concessions – but under the condition that Pristina fulfills its basic obligation (from the Brussels agreement), which is the Community of Serb Municipalities,” the minister said.

She stressed that the content of a legally binding agreement would be defined by the results of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

“There will be no ‘Kosovo or EU’ dilemma because if there were, it would be an indicator that the standards that we are talking about daily with Brussels do not exist, and those are reforms, the rule of law, administrative capacities…,” Joksimovic said.

She also said that she disagreed with Prime Minister Anom Brnabic that it did not matter how many chapters in Serbia’s EU accession negotiations would be opened by the end of the year, adding that the opening of the chapters represented proof of successful work.

“The opening the chapters is proof that you have been working on reforms, and I expect at least three to be opened by the end of the year, anything else we would consider a slowing down of the European integration progress,” Joksimovic stressed.

What is expected of Serbia

A legally binding agreement on normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia was first publicly mentioned in Serbia more than five years ago.

At that time, members of the ruling German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) presented the conditions Berlin would insist on when it comes to Serbia’s progress on the road to the EU, and this entered the EU negotiating framework for Serbia, adopted in January 2014 ahead of the formal start of negotiations on membership.

During a visit to Belgrade on September 13, 2012, CDU MP Andreas Schockenhoff cited a legally binding agreement on normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina as one of the seven conditions that the Bundestag parliamentary group would insist, with the intention of making them the official German position.

Schockenhoff said at the time that he would insist that the Belgrade-Pristina agreement to be in writing and that by the end of the EU accession process all details of that agreement be fully implemented.
This close associate of Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the demands he presented at a press conference were not new and that his interlocutors in Belgrade were not surprised.

He at the time talked to the then Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkic and Serbian Parliament Speaker Nebojsa Stefanovic.

A legally binding document on normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina entered the EU negotiating framework for Serbia, which was adopted on January 9, 2014, and presented at the first intergovernmental conference on January 21, when Serbia officially started negotiations with the EU.
It is stated there that “the process of normalization of relations with Kosovo will be of particular importance for Serbia”.

“This process will ensure that both parties can continue their European path, avoiding blocking each other in these efforts, and gradually, by the end of the accession negotiations with Serbia, will lead to a comprehensive normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, in the form of a legally binding agreement with the intention of both parties being able to fully exercise their rights and fulfill their obligations,” Article 12 states.