By Steve Milosevic
BELGRADE, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Whatever outcome the visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton may produce, their tour to the western Balkans carries more symbolism than substance.
When Clinton and Ashton arrive in Belgrade on Tuesday, they come in town in an effort to shore up the recent image of normalization between the Serbian government and Kosovo regime after the reported meeting between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci in Brussels on October 19.
While Thaci called the meeting held under the auspices of the European Union as "a bilateral meeting between two states", Dacic dismissed the notion that his meeting with the Kosovo leader was in any way a signal that Serbia was prepared to recognize the independence of its breakaway southern province.
"Normalization does not involve changing our position on the status of Kosovo. For us, such a notion (of our recognition of Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence) is absolutely unacceptable," Dacic said.
Serbia regards Kosovo, where more than 90 percent of the 2 million population are ethnic Albanians, as an integral part of Serbia, despite it has been recognized by the U.S. and some leading EU countries.
Serbia routinely boycotts any international meetings where representatives of Kosovo receive the status an independent state enjoys.
Dacic has characterized the involvement of the U.S. and the EU as "partners" seeking a peaceful solution for all the stakeholders on the Kosovo issue, saying that he expects no "new conditions or ultimatums" would be attached or issued by Clinton and Ashton during their visit.
But the joint visit by the two top diplomats from the U.S. and the EU will send a clear message to Belgrade: Serbia is running out of maneuvering space diplomatically.
"There is a joint U.S.-EU action that urges Belgrade not to take advantage of a possible division or differences of opinion between the U.S. and the EU on the Kosovo issue," Obrad Kesic, a Washington-based political analyst, told Radio Television Serbia (RTS).
Serbia has been openly courting Spain, Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus and Romania, the five EU countries have refused to recognize the Kosovo independence unilaterally declared in 2008, largely due to internal separatist movement or ethnic minority issues in their own countries.
"There is speculation that Belgrade might believe it has a little room for maneuvering on the Kosovo issue, because there are five EU member states which do not support Kosovo's independence," said Kesic.
The visit by Clinton and Ashton, representing a single block, is therefore designed to diminish the value of the five EU members on the margins of policy.
Clinton and Ashton will head to Kosovo after Serbia. Their joint visit will only bolster the accepted belief that outstanding European issues can only be resolved with the input of the U.S.
Clinton can expect an enthusiastic welcome in Kosovo because of America's unwavering support for Kosovo's independence and its leading role in the bombing of Serbia in 1999, while her husband Bill Clinton was in office.