EU welcomes ICJ ruling, wants to "facilitate" Serbia-Kosovo talks
Jul 22, 2010, 18:32 GMT
Brussels - The European Union is 'ready to facilitate a process of dialogue' between Serbia and Kosovo, the bloc's foreign policy chief said Thursday.
High Representative Catherine Ashton spoke after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judged Pristina's 2008 unilateral declaration of independence to have been legal, delivering a huge blow to Serbia's hopes of challenging its former province's legal status.
'The EU welcomes the publication of the advisory opinion' of the United Nations court, Ashton said in a statement.
Ashton said the ruling 'opens a new phase' and - stressing that both Serbia's and Kosovo's future 'lies in the European Union' - urged the two sides to develop 'good neighbourly relations.'
'The EU is therefore ready to facilitate a process of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. This dialogue would be to promote cooperation, achieve progress on the path to Europe and improve the lives of the people,' the EU's top diplomat indicated.
The EU is officially neutral on Kosovo, as five of its 27 member states still have not recognized its secession from Serbia.
But the ICJ's opinion is likely to increase pressure on the five countries - Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyprus - to fall in line with the majority opinion within the bloc.
'After this ruling, there is no reason for other countries to refuse to recognize Kosovo. This is especially the case for the five EU member states which have not recognized Kosovo so far,' said Doris Pack, a German conservative deputy in the European Parliament.
The ICJ's opinion was also welcomed by two EU lawmakers hailing from separatist parties in Britain and Belgium.
'It is crucial ... that neighbouring governments, especially Serbia, recognise that not only is Kosovan independence legal, it is a necessary step in building the stability of the region,' said Alyn Smith from the Scottish National Party.
'Several nations seem to fear that recognising Kosovo's independence would set a precedent for other regions and stateless nations seeking greater autonomy or independence. This is no reason not to seek the best solution for Kosovo, including the prospect of EU membership,' said Frieda Brepoels from the N-VA Flemish nationalist party.