MOSCOW, May 29 (UPI) -- Serbia is on a "long and uncertain" journey to EU membership but won't trade it for recognition of Kosovo, President-elect Tomislav Nikolic says.
Nikolic, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday in Moscow, said he won't compromise his country's position on the former Serbian province to curry favor with Brussels in its bid for accession to the EU, the Serbian news agency Tanjug reported.
Predicting Russian-Serbian relations under his presidency would be "progressive," Nikolic told Putin, "Serbia is on the road toward the EU. It's a long and uncertain journey. We will organize the country in accordance with the EU rules."
Nikolic, the leader of the Serbian Progressive Party, gained the presidency last week in a major upset over the incumbent Boris Tadic, winning 49.5 percent of the vote to 47.3 percent for Tadic. He immediately announced he would continue the country's progress toward the European Union.
So far, he added, he hadn't heard from Brussels that Serbia would be forced to recognize Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence.
"We cannot do it, even if it means we have to stop the negotiations that very moment," Nikolic said in Moscow, where he addressed a congress of the United Russia Party during which Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was elected as its leader.
Nikolic told the Voice of Moscow there should be no recognition for Kosovo's independence without a plebiscite in Serbia.
"Our constitution makes no mention of Kosovo independence without asking the people's opinion to this effect," he told the state broadcaster.
Kosovo said this month it wants to have talks with ethnic Serbs in the northern part of the country who don't recognize the authority of the Pristina government, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians. Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said talks mediated by U.S. and EU officials would be conducted with ethnic Serb citizens in the north but without with participation of Serbia.
The ethnic Serb population, however, hasn't shown much enthusiasm for such talks without the Belgrade government by their sides.
Nikolic said Saturday the talks should include Serbia's leaders.
"As to the upcoming talks between Serbia and the authorities in Pristina, I have always demanded that they be held at the top level, that the president and prime minister do not hide behind their officials' backs," he told the Voice of Russia.
"We can no longer run things in Pristina, that is obvious, but it is also obvious that Pristina cannot rule Kosovo Mitrovica either."
Some analysts saw Nikolic's trip to Moscow in his initial visit as president-elect he would take a more hard-line approach against encouragement from the EU to recognize Kosovo.
The leader of the anti-EU Democratic Party of Serbia, former Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, asserted over the weekend the EU will soon demand that Serbia to give up on Kosovo in order to start accession talks, the Serbian Beta news agency reported.
"The Serbian public should know that the EU will soon start with the most brutal pressure and blackmails, requesting from Serbia to completely give up on Kosovo in order to start the EU accession talks," he said. "Such messages are already being brought by diplomats from the EU states."
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