Kosovo boycott mars Poland’s Eastern summit

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The presidents of Serbia, Romania and Slovakia threatened to boycott a summit of Central and South-Eastern European countries, to be held in Warsaw over the two next days (27-28 May) with the presence of US President Barack Obama, over the participation on an equal footing of Kosovo's president.

The high point of the Warsaw summit hosted by Polish President Bronis?aw Komorowski is the participation of US President Barack Obama, who is currently touring Europe.

But the high-profile event, the 17th of its kind, is more than likely be remembered for the boycott threat by the heads of state of Serbia, Romania and Slovakia.

"The president of Serbia, Boris Tadi?, will not take part in the summit of the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe because Kosovo will not be presented asymmetrically," a statement on the president's official website says.

Such a move is in keeping with the decision of the Serbian government and UNSC Resolution 1244, and steps taken by the Serbian president have to be in line with those documents, the statement further reads.

The UNSC, adopted on 10 June 1999, placed the former Serbian republic under an interim UN administration. It also authorised the UN to facilitate a political process to determine the future of Kosovo. However, Kosovo declared unilaterally independence in 2008 (see 'Background').

Romania and Slovakia also informed the organisers of the Warsaw summit that they would not take part in an event in which senior officials from Kosovo had also been invited to participate, an adviser to the Polish president was quoted as saying.

Presidents Traian Basescu of Romania and Ivan Gasparovic of Slovakia have both called off their trips to Warsaw, their administrations announced yesterday (24 May).

Explaining the reasons behind the decision, the Polish media recalled that Romania and Slovakia are among five EU countries that have not recognised the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo. They could therefore not accept the fact that Kosovo's President Atifete Jahjaga had been invited to attend the summit on an equal footing.

Atifete Jahjaga, born in 1975, is the first female and non-partisan president of Kosovo. Until her election on 7 April, she was deputy director of the Kosovo police force, holding the rank of Major General, the highest held by a woman in South-Eastern Europe.

Jahjaga was elected following a scandal involving the two previous presidents, Fatmir Sejdiu and Behgjet Pacolli. The latter served only a few days.

The adviser to the Polish president said that his country understood Slovakia and Romania's decision, but noted that there was no reason why Warsaw should not invite a representative or the president of Kosovo to the summit.

Polish Foreign Minister Rados?aw Sikorski pointed out that Poland had recognised Kosovo's independence, an explanation for the appropriateness of inviting “the country's leader” to participate in the summit.

From 1 July, Poland is assuming the rotating presidency of the EU.

Protocol adjustment?

But late in the evening, the Slovak news agency TASR published a communiqué announcing that President Gasparovic will attend the Warsaw summit.

According to government spokesperson Marek Trubac, the Polish authorities had agreed with the Slovak authorities that there would be no symbols, coat of arms, national flag or inscription 'Republic of Kosovo', and no joint declaration adopted featuring the signature of the interim president of Kosovo.

Apparently, such an arrangement could make it possible also for the presidents of Romania and Serbia to attend, although no new information was made available by the time of publication.

On other occasions when Kosovo has participated as a regional player together with Serbia, diplomatic tricks have been used, such as no flags being displayed, or the participants being called by their names and not by their titles.

According to Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Obama will announce the deployment of an F-16 fighter jet squadron to the Polish city of Lask during his visit to the country.

Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008, nine years after the end of a 1998-1999 war between Belgrade's security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. In the following years, Kosovo was an international protectorate patrolled by NATO peacekeepers.

After Kosovo declared independence on 17 February 2008, the two million-strong republic, 90% of whose population is ethnic Albanian, established many of the trappings of statehood, including a new constitution, army, national anthem, flag, passports, identity cards and an intelligence agency. 

Most EU countries, except Spain, Greece, Romania, Cyprus and Slovakia, have recognised the independence of Kosovo. Of all UN members, 75 have recognised Kosovo so far.

Last September, Serbia indicated for the first time that it would accept a Union-backed dialogue with Kosovo.

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