Spain backs Serbia's EU bid, won't recognise Kosovo

10th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spanish prime minister reiterates Spain’s support for Serbia and its plans to join the European Union.

MADRID – Spain's prime minister Monday gave support to Serbia telling the country's leader that Madrid has no plans to recognise the independence of Kosovo and backs Belgrade's bid to join the European Union.

"Spain's position regarding the unilateral declaration of independence of the territory of Kosovo is the known position of non-recognition," Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told a joint news conference with visiting Serbian President Boris Tadic.

"We have maintained this position and we will maintain it in the future," he said following talks with Tadic.

The ethnic Albanian-majority province of Kosovo seceded from Serbia on 17 February 2008. It has so far been recognised by over 50 countries, including the United States and most of EU member states.

But Spain along with Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Slovakia have opposed recognising Kosovo, either in solidarity with Serbia or over concerns that it could create a precedent for their own separatist areas.

For his part Tadic reiterated that Serbia would "never" recognise an independent Kosovo.

"Serbia will not renounce defending the integrity of its territory... by legal and diplomatic means and it will never recognise the independence of Kosovo," said Tadic, who was elected president in July 2008.

Zapatero also said Spain, which will hold the EU's rotating presidency during the first half of 2010, will back Serbia's bid to be a candidate for membership in the bloc.

"We support Serbia's European aspirations and we are available to help President Tadic in his efforts to... present a candidacy for EU membership," he said.

Serbia plans to formally present its candidacy to join the EU later this year.

The Balkan country signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement - the first step toward eventual EU membership - with the bloc in April 2008 but it has not come into effect.

Several EU nations, in particular the Netherlands, have demanded that Serbia "cooperate fully" with the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) before the agreement takes effect.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Madrid was committed to "working so that the Netherlands lifts its reserve" over the entry into force of the agreement after holding talks with his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic.

Zapatero praised Belgrade's "substantial improvement in cooperation" with the ICTY which he said led to the arrest in July of former Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic.

But he urged Serbia to continue its cooperation with the Netherlands-based court in order to "rapidly capture" fugitive war crimes suspects Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

"European integration is a priority for us and without the support of Spain this would be practically an impossible mission," said Tadic.

Madrid and Belgrade also signed a military cooperation agreement on the first day of Tadic's two-day visit to Spain.

Tadic will hold meetings with Spanish business groups and Madrid's Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon during his visit, which will also include a state dinner in his honour offered on Monday night by King Juan Carlos.

AFP / Expatica

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