Previous reports that the EU has accepted Serbia's conditions for the bloc's police and justice mission EULEX to be deployed throughout Kosovo do not necessarily reflect the EU's official position, the EU's special representative in Kosovo Pieter Feith has said.
"Comments that are attributed to a European Commission official are not the EU's official position," Mr Feith stated on Saturday (8 November), according to Serbian news portal B92.net.
He was referring to reports that the commission's western Balkans director, Pierre Mirel, had said on Friday the EU would accept Serbian demands that its 2,200-strong mission be neutral regarding Kosovo's status, and approved by the UN Security Council.
Kosovo was governed by the UN for nine years until it declared unilateral independence from Serbia in February.
Belgrade does not recognise this independence and says it would only accept the deployment of the EU's mission if it has guarantees it would in no way mean a direct or indirect recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign state.
Serbia also wants EULEX not to be linked to the so-called Ahtisaari plan put forward by former UN special envoy to Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari in February 2007 and which is largely seen as having opened the way for Kosovo's independence a year later.
During the weekend, Serbian President Boris Tadic told the country's Tanjug news agency: "We are only in the stage in which our preconditions for the deployment of EULEX are accepted in the statements and formulations of ranking EU officials. However, before we get guarantees on paper, no agreement can be made."
He added that Serbia has been discussing the deployment of EULEX in Kosovo "solely with United Nations officials" and that talks "are not over yet."
But a mission that would fit Belgrade's demands and those of Kosovo's Serbs would not satisfy Kosovar Albanians, who share the opposite view and do not want a "status-neutral" EULEX.
"Kosovo does not need a [status] neutral EULEX. That mission is acceptable only in the way in which it was envisaged in the Ahtisaari plan and any other modification is not acceptable for the Kosovo institutions," a spokesperson for Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu, said in Pristina.
Given the current deadlock and unless an agreement on how to proceed is reached at an UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, "EULEX will be delayed for next year, which is not to anyone's benefit," said Stefan Lehne, western Balkans director with the Council – the institution representing EU states.
The deployment of the EULEX police and civilian administration team in Kosovo has already suffered several delays and only some 300 of the planned 2,200 people are currently on the ground, with the initial plan being that they all deploy by the end of the year.