BELGRADE, May 26 (Xinhua) -- EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton on Thursday said here that Serbia had "breathed fresh energy" into its EU integration process with the arrest of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic.
Ashton was in Belgrade, the first stop on a two-day tour designed to extend EU support for the ongoing dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. As part of process of regional cooperation, the talks are aimed at improving the lives of ordinary citizens.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after almost a decade of UN administration. Although most leading EU countries and the U.S. have recognized Kosovo, Serbia asserts its sovereignty over what it maintains is its southern province.
Ashton is scheduled to visit Pristina on Friday.
"We have always been certain that the future for Serbia and Kosovo is in the EU," said Ashton."We operate within the limits set by the Security Council, the EU ... Where will it take us, will be the subject of future conversations."
Serbian President Boris Tadic said he understood the EU's strategy of striving to resolve regional disputes before they become internal conflicts within the EU. However, the arrest of the war crimes fugitive Mladic, wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity, eclipsed the discussion of pragmatic solutions for Kosovo.
Asked whether Serbia -- as a result of the arrest -- could anticipate candidate status for EU membership by year end, Ashton replied that despite the political importance of Mladic's capture, the technical aspect of Serbia's integration would continue.
Tadic said the arrest of Mladic had heightened expectations that Serbia's EU candidacy would be accelerated. Mladic's arrest was widely regarded as a major pre-condition to Serbia's EU integration process. An upcoming report to the UN Security Council by Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was expected to be highly critical of Serbia for failing to capture Mladic.
"Today's step is a proof that Serbia is a just state," said Tadic, adding that the further reforms of the legal system would continue. Tadic said that cooperation with the ICTY was not only a pre-condition for EU integration, but "above all a moral and international legal obligation."
Tadic said that Serbia needed a start date for negotiations for EU membership because it would be a tremendous step forward for Serbian political and civil society, which would contribute to the Western Balkan region.