The German foreign minister this week gave Kosovo an early 10th birthday present (the date is February 17). Sigmar Gabriel said in Pristina:
If Serbia wants to move toward the European Union, the building of the rule of law is a primary condition, but naturally also the acceptance of Kosovo’s independence. That is a central condition to take the path toward Europe.
Everyone has known this for a long time, though Serbian politicians like to deny they have ever heard it. Dutch, Swedish and other EU diplomats have told me they have clearly and repeatedly made this point in private. Plus it is no secret that ratification of Serbian accession to the EU in the Bundestag and several other parliaments isn’t going to happen without acceptance of Kosovo’s independence.
The time has come to make the point loudly and publicly. Belgrade has already accepted that Kosovo will qualify for EU membership separately from Serbia, which certainly implies its de facto independence. But some in Serbia may still be imagining that the EU would be prepared to do what it did for Cyprus: allow a derogation for part of its “sovereign” territory. There is absolutely no European interest in doing that , but illusions die hard in the Balkans.