AT THE ELYSEE: France's president Nicolas Sarkozy, left, welcomes Serbian president Boris Tadic at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 27 2009.
Visiting his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, Serbian president Boris Tadic said that his country would not accept having to recognise Kosovo as independent in order to join the European Union.
Serbia vehemently rejects Kosovo’s February 2008 unilateral declaration of independence, which it is challenging in the World Court. France was among the first countries to recognise Kosovo.
Serbian news agency Beta, quoting a statement made by Tadic to Serbian state television on May 27 2009, reported him as saying: "The French president told me that no one expects Serbia or will make any implicit or explicit recognition of Kosovo a condition for Serbia on its path of European integration. I think that it is very important and a great political feat".
Kosovo and Serbia’s EU accession process were two separate issues, Tadic said.
Ahead of his visit to Paris, Tadic said in an interview with French daily Le Figaro that Serbia would "never recognise" Kosovo as independent. He told Le Figaro that he hoped that France and Serbia could achieve a strategic partnership like that "of the golden era before World War 1".
Sarkozy told Tadic to work with Kosovo, a message similar to those issued of late by several Western European countries and the United States.
Serbian and international news reports said that during the visit, Tadic and Sarkozy agreed on a strategic bilateral partnership providing for co-operation in Serbia's European integration efforts in cultural, scientific, educational and economic structures.
Serbia’s Blic said that Tadic would prefer that the final agreement be signed in Belgrade.
Tadic and Sarkozy agreed that no new conditions should be set for visa-free travel to the EU by Serbian citizens. A report to the European Commission this past week said that Serbia had not yet met all the conditions for liberalised visa access to the EU.