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Tadic refusing to give up Kosovo for EU bid

Latest update : 2008-08-03

Serbian President Boris Tadic said on Sunday that his country would not give its blessing to an independent Kosovo so that Serbia can join the European Union, but made it clear that he would continue to pursue war crimes suspects.

BELGRADE, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Serbian President Boris Tadic
said on Sunday his country would not drop its opposition to
Kosovo's secession in order to become a European Union member.

Tadic nevertheless made clear Serbia would continue to
pursue war crimes suspects after its arrest and extradition of
Bosnian Serb wartime President Radovan Karadzic, an important
step towards EU membership.

"Serbia's EU membership is the supreme national interest and
this government will not give up on it," Tadic told a news
conference in his first public comment since the arrest of
Karadzic last month.

But he stressed Serbia would not abandon its claim to Kosovo
and would pursue a diplomatic and political battle.

"Serbia will never give up on its territorial integrity and
sovereignty," he said.

Kosovo Albanians declared independence unilaterally in
February in a move recognised by many EU countries, although not
by the European Union itself. Serbia, backed by Russia, rejects
the secession and wants more negotiations on Kosovo's status.

Tadic said Serbia would seek a ruling from the International
Court of Justice on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of
independence and on the recognition of its independence.

Such an approach would annoy the European Union, Britain's
ambassador to Serbia said earlier on Sunday, and that could make
joining the bloc more difficult.

The European Union has proposed a police mission to Kosovo
and any international court ruling in favour of Serbia might
badly undermine its potential mandate. It has already been
delayed by Russian opposition at the United Nations.

Tadic said the Eulex force could come as long as it won
approval from the U.N. Security Council -- which Russia's veto
power in practice makes impossible.


Tadic dismissed criticism and threats from hardline Serb
nationalists over the arrest of Karadzic and said cooperation
with the U.N. war crimes tribunal was high on the agenda.
Karadzic's army chief Ratko Mladic is still on the run.

"I am ready to take any risk for my policies, which open up
the perspective for the citizens of Serbia," Tadic said.

Financial markets welcomed the arrest of Karadzic as a
signal that Serbia was ready to do what it takes to join the
European Union and renewed foreign investor interest helped push
the dinar to a record high of 76.70 against the euro on Friday.

The improved investor sentiment has given a lift to the
economy, struggling with double-digit inflation, high budget and
current account deficits and massive public spending.

Tadic urged the government, an odd-couple alliance of
Tadic's pro-Western party and Socialists of late former
President Slobodan Milosevic, not to risk macroeconomic
stability for the sake of fulfilling pre-election pledges.

"What is important is that we keep inflation under control,"
he said. "That is important for the sake of our economic future
and for the sake of joining the European Union."

Headline inflation fell to 11.6 percent year-on-year in
July, from 12.1 percent in June, because of cheaper fresh food,
but financial analysts are watching fiscal plans for signs of
anything that could worsen the inflation outlook.

One key pre-election pledge was for an immediate 10 percent
pension hike, which it has been estimated could cost Serbia four
percent of its gross domestic product.

"Pre-election pledges must be fulfilled in a way any
responsible government would do -- by maintaining macroeconomic
stability," Tadic said. "The government and the central bank are
obliged to coordinate policy to ensure the stability of the
financial system."

The backbone of Serbia's future growth was the Stabilisation
and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU and an energy deal
with Russia, both of which need to be ratified by parliament, he
said. Tadic said nothing would stand in their way.

Gazprom has agreed to build an arm of the South Stream gas
pipeline through Serbia in exchange for a 51 percent stake in
Serbia's NIS oil and gas monopoly for 400 million euros -- a
price some members of the ruling coalition see as too low.

"Those who look at this deal through the price of NIS
neglect the strategic interest of Serbia," he said.


Date created : 2008-08-03