Are you sure?

Serbia blocks EU cooperation deal

The planned signing of a cooperation deal with Serbia had been scrapped, the European Commission announced.

“I very much regret we have to postpone tomorrow's signing of the political agreement, of course the EU commitment is firm and the invitation remains on the table,”' EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters after discussions on Serbia in the EU's executive Commission.

He said he regretted “the obstruction by certain politicians in Belgrade in blocking the signature,” in a clear reference to nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who opposes rapprochement with the EU and sees the overtures as a sop ahead of an expected declaration of independence from Kosovo.

“I'm disappointed he has turned down his own commitment,” Rehn said, in reply to a question on Kostunica's role in the matter.

“It is... sad for Serbia if politicians continue to put power games ahead of their own citizens' interests,” added Rehn, who has been among the strongest champions of future EU membership for Belgrade.

He said they had failed to heed the choice of Serbian voters who re-elected pro-EU Serbian President Boris Tadic in a run-off vote on Sunday, rather than a nationalist opponent.

Rehn said the political agreement remained on the table, saying “we are ready once Serbia is ready to sign.”

EU foreign ministers made the offer of the political cooperation deal last week, just days before the Serbian election run-off, as a friendly gesture and a sign of the former Yugoslav republic's future within the bloc.

The rift in the Serbian government began with the re-election of Tadic, who was not backed by Kostunica.

The prime minister, whose party is the weaker partner in a shaky ruling coalition with Tadic's Democratic Party (DS), said Tuesday that the EU deal was offered as a sweetener for a mission paving the way for independence for the breakaway province of Kosovo.

An EU decision on Monday to approve a police and justice mission to Kosovo deepened the rift within the fragile Serbian government, with Kostunica seeing it as another step towards the province's independence. (ndtv)