LIMASSOL, Cyprus – Accession to the European Union would be the best way to resolve the problem of Serbia and Kosovo, Dragomir Karic, a Member of Parliament of the National Assembly of Serbia, told New Europe in Limassol on November 1. “Kosovo and Metohija are the advantage of Serbia. They are not baggage,” he said, referencing a region in the southwestern part of Kosovo that was once an autonomous province within the old Communist-era Yugoslavia. According to the most recent estimates, roughly 90% of Metohija’s population currently consists of Muslim Albanians. The region, however, is a deeply symbolic part of Serbia’s culture and history due to the large number of medieval monastic estates that are present throughout the villages and countryside.

Karic noted, however, that regardless of EU accession, Serbia’s growing economy is the only way forward. He did note that the European Commission is dragging its feet when it comes to closer integration.

“They come all the time and they set up new conditions. A week ago, a man from the Bundestag (the German Parliament) came and said Kosovo is not the only condition to join European Union. There are other conditions and they don’t tell us, so they just try to make problems,” Karic argued.

“I have to say that despite bombings and destruction and 15 years of rigid sanctions, crazy inflation 20 years ago … despite all these things, the growth of production is 4.5%,” he said. “We decided the majority of Serbs in Parliament, any person will tell you, that we must work and that’s it. That’s it whether we join the European Union or not. We want to resolve the Kosovo problem peacefully and we insist on it. And our future is the economy. With the new government of President (Aleksandar) Vucic, we see the chance to develop foreign markets and we have succeeded. Our economy goes forward not on the basis of credits, but due to foreign investments. And the last 30 years, we had no terrorism threats, no suicide bombers. So our main threat is state terrorism,” he said, slamming plans to set up an army in Kosovo and Metohija.

“We’re told by the US and Europe to buy tractors and combines from Russia. ‘Why do you need weapons?’ Of course, we would be happy to get agricultural equipment but our neighbors should also get them. But they are buying weapons and we cannot do that,” he said.

Karic also said Serbia and Albania could negotiate a solution to the issue, but it’s not simple. “We have Europe and we’re part of Europe. So we have Germany, France, Spain, and other countries, which cannot agree on a direct agreement between Pristina and Belgrade because they have their own problems. And if we agree (with Kosovo) in this way, then tomorrow it will happen in Spain, in France, in Corsica…so I don’t know how we will get out of it,” he said.

Turning to energy, Karic noted that in Kosovo, there is a big lake that generates electricity for parts of both Kosovo and Serbia and a conflict of interest does exist.

“It would be logical if it belongs to both sides, but there are some issues that we cannot agree on,” Karic said. “The most important thing is the safety and security of the people. That’s the number one problem.”