Reuters, November 01, 2007
Serbs want EU but not at cost of independent Kosovo
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Nearly three quarters of Serbs want to pursue European Union membership, but most of them would not accept independence for the breakaway Kosovo province in return for faster EU accession, a poll showed on Wednesday.
Serbia's path to the EU is currently blocked by Belgrade's failure to arrest four remaining war crimes suspects indicted by the United Nations tribunal in the Hague.
The poll, commissioned by Serbia's Ministry for Kosovo, showed 72 percent of Serbs are in favour of EU membership. A similar number -- some 70 percent -- would not consent to the independence of Kosovo in return for faster accession.
The two issues have never been officially linked, but Serb media regularly speculate that Belgrade has been offered a fast-track to the EU in return for accepting a Western-backed plan giving independence to the province.
The poll showed nearly 61 percent of respondents did not favour NATO membership, echoing the views of nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica who has accused the alliance of building a "NATO state" in Kosovo.
Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population are ethnic Albanians, has been run by the UN since 1999, when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces to halt the killing of Albanian civilians in a two-year counter-insurgency war.
Negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo Albanian leaders on the future of the province resume on Monday in Vienna.
Mediators say chances of a deal before a December 10 deadline are slim, and according to the poll, some 43.2 Serbs see Kosovo's independence as an inevitable outcome.
But despite their low expectations, 57 percent of respondents said that a just solution would be to give Albanians autonomy, but keep the province within Serbia's borders. Some 28 percent wanted the province partitioned.
The poll showed that almost 60 percent of Serbs favour very close ties with Russia, their main supporter against Kosovo's independence.