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Serbia still on EU path, despite Kosovo

Serbia is still determined to become a member of the European Union despite the bloc's support for Kosovo's independence, an official said.

“Serbia won't change its clearly stated goal - to become a member of the EU,” Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic told reporters in Belgrade.

Djelic said despite being in a “difficult period,” Serbia would continue with “brisk economic reforms which will allow it to become an economic hub in southeastern Europe,” as quoted by the Beta news agency.

The deputy premier, who is a member of pro-Western President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party, is charged with leading Serbia's European Union accession bid.

Earlier this year, Brussels offered Belgrade a deal on political dialogue, free trade, visa relaxation and educational cooperation that was rejected by the nationalist party of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

Djelic also pledged a secure and stable environment for foreign investors following violent anti-Western riots last week.

“Serbia will not sink into self-imposed isolation, Serbia will not enter conflicts,” Djelic told reporters.

Djelic, a key ally of Serbia’s President Boris Tadic said the country will “stay open for local and foreign investors.”

“The Serbian budget envisions some €3 billion from investments and if we fail to secure that, life in Serbia will get much worse,” Djelic warned.

The deputy prime minister however stressed that “Serbia will not relinquish” its former southern province of Kosovo “for money” and that the diplomatic “battle for Kosovo will last for years.”

Kosovo's Albanian-dominated parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17.

The United States and leading European powers have since recognized Kosovo, raising fears of nationalist-fuelled backlash and more isolation for Serbia, a pariah state during the 1990s rule of late president Slobodan Milosevic.

The former Yugoslav republic's EU integration process was frozen after attacks on some of its members' embassies in Belgrade during an anti-Kosovo independence demonstration on Thursday last week. (balkaninsight, Reuters)