ATHENS, Greece: Serbia's future lies within the European Union and its eventual entry into the bloc must not be tied to developments in Kosovo, the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Romania and Greece said Saturday.
"Nobody wants to put Serbia into this kind of dilemma (to choose between EU entry and holding on to Kosovo). These are two separate issues; any attempt to link Serbian accession with developments in Kosovo would be wrong and counterproductive," Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told reporters in a joint news conference with Bulgaria's Ivailo Kalfin and Romania's Adrian Mihai Cioroianu.
Greece, which has consistently opposed any change in Balkan borders over the past couple of decades, opposes recognizing an independent Kosovo state if the Albanian majority in the province unilaterally declares independence from Serbia. Greece fears this could undermine the Balkans' fragile stability.
Romania, which has a substantial Hungarian minority, shares Greece's position.
Bulgaria looks more favorably at the idea of an independent Kosovo, but Kalfin did not openly disagree with his two colleagues. He agreed that "any solution not based on compromise is bad" but said EU membership "is a community of values" to which the Serbs must adhere. Both the Serbs and Kosovars must show "commitment to a political process and (avoid) recourse to violence," he added.
Cioroianu said that "We need a democratic Serbia sparing no effort to implement reforms" that will help it join the EU.
Kosovo Albanians have threatened to declare independence unilaterally if the U.N. Security Council remains deadlocked on the issue. Russia threatens to veto any Security Council resolution that is not supported by the Serbs, and the latter continue to reject an independent Kosovo, offering broad autonomy within Serbia instead.
Asked directly whether Greece and Bulgaria would recognize an independent Kosovo, Bakoyannis said that "we are not there yet. ... We will evaluate the situation on the ground (and) we must strive for a unified EU position." Bakoyannis and Kalfin agreed the EU must strive to keep communication channels open between the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians "to keep the region as peaceful as possible".
Serbia should be ready to take the first step toward EU membership by signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in January 2008 and achieve candidate status later that year, the ministers said. "Serbia has no alternative to a European perspective," said Cioroianu.
The meeting was part of the three countries' regular rounds of consultations. The foreign ministers will meet early next year in Bucharest to prepare a summit meeting of their respective heads of state and government in Sofia next year.