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Serbia and Kosovo

Volume 567: debated on Tuesday 3 September 2013

4. What recent assessment he has made of the prospects for fully normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo. (900078)

I very much welcome the considerable progress that Serbia and Kosovo have already made, including their historic agreement on 19 April this year. There is still more to do, but I am confident that if both sides remain committed, full normalisation will be achieved.

I am sure that the Minister for Europe will join me in congratulating both the United Nations and the EU High Representative on their efforts to bring a better relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, but what does he identify as the next crucial step in normalising the relationship between Pristina and Belgrade?

I endorse what the hon. Gentleman says about congratulating both the United Nations and the EU High Representative on their work to achieve progress. The next steps are the full implementation of what has been agreed under the dialogue and urgent efforts to take forward some of the key outstanding issues, such as telecommunications, energy and agreement on arrangements for municipal elections later this year. Of course, we have to ensure that conditionality on normalisation is hard-wired into the framework for Serbia’s accession negotiations.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Kosovo would not exist if we and other members of the international community had not intervened in the mayhem and disintegration of the former Republic of Yugoslavia? Is there not a choice for this country about whether we want to continue to be a country of influence or one of isolation and whether we want our children to continue to write history or simply to read it?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I would simply add that the decision that the then Government took and Parliament supported in respect of Kosovo showed that the UK saw that its national interests were served by stability in south-east Europe and were not confined to the immediate vicinity of our territory.

Serbia is a candidate country to join the EU, but Kosovo is only a potential candidate. Is there a way to ensure that the timetables coincide, so that both countries can be treated equally and join the EU at the same time?

We have consistently taken a policy towards EU enlargement that says that there should not be artificial timetables, but that each country’s progress should be determined by its success in meeting specific accession criteria. That is the right approach to take. What is important is that we make it clear that the normalisation of relations with Kosovo is integral to the entire Serbian accession process. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that the Commission is about to launch negotiations for a stabilisation and association agreement with Kosovo. That is a very clear signal of its European perspective, too.