President says Serbia to table position on Kosovo

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Serbian President Tomislav Nikoli? said that the government would take a stand today (8 April) on the failed Kosovo talks, and that the majority of parties with representatives in Parliament were expected to support it. BETA, the EURACTIV partner agency in Serbia reports.

Following a meeting with the Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik on Sunday in Belgrade, Nikoli? told a news conference that the Serbian delegation in the negotiations in Brussels had "run into a wall" because the talks centred on Kosovo's independence.

Serbia doesn’t recognise the independence of its former province.

The EU-facilitated talks aimed at ending the ethnic partition of Kosovo ended without results on 3 April in Brussels.

The Brussels talks are not about the status of Kosovo, but on loosening Serbia’s grip on the northern, Serb-populated pocket of Mitrovica.

Both Nikoli? and Dodik, who is the leader of the Serbian entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are seen as nationalists.

Nikoli? called the compromise proposal, made by representatives of the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, an “ultimatum”, but also said that it could be improved.

"The stance of the state leadership, which will be united, will be declared on 8 April, which is not going to be easy, because that thing in Brussels is not an offer, it is an ultimatum,” Nikoli? said.

“This is how we think of it. Can it be made better, it can, does it have to be made better, it does, since under the pretext of abolishing parallel institutions someone is trying to cross out the [Kosovo] Serbs who figure in their calculations as a parallel nation," Nikoli? said.

France more supportive of Serbia

Speaking in Paris on Thursday, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Da?i?, who represented his country at the Brussels talks, said the EU side had given Serbia until 9 April to answer the proposal. He also indicated that France had shown more understanding to Serbia’s positions that Ashton’s representatives.

According to Da?i?, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that Paris would advocate for Serbia to receive a date for the start of EU accession talks as soon as possible and that France supported Serbia. Da?i? explained that France had extended to Serbia “a hand which it can grab to get out of quicksand”.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said on Thursday in Pristina that if there is no agreement, Serbia will suffer severe consequences, but Kosovo will not fare better either.

Thaci said the situation could deteriorate if no agreement was reached, and called for more work to be done on reaching an agreement with Serbia.

"We have come to an exceptionally significant phase, a decisive phase,” Thaci said, adding that the talks “are in the interest of peace in Kosovo, Serbia and the entire region."

Wilfried Martens, president of the European People's Party (EPP), said: "I have been following closely the latest developments after the last round of the difficult dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. I understand that difficult decisions need to be taken but I sincerely hope  that the leaders on both sides would show wisdom, courage and statesmanship to move forward and to ensure a European future for their peoples. Only a European path can ensure a prosperous and secure future for their citizens and lasting stability in the region."

The EU-mediated dialog between Belgrade and Pristina began in March 2011, with the meetings taking place in Brussels. Initially, lower-level meetings were held.

After the new Serbian government was formed in July 2012, the dialogue was raised to a higher level and the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Da?i? and Hashim Thaci, met for the first time in October. At a meeting in December, Da?i? and Thaci agreed to exchange liaison officers.  

Since the start of the dialogue in March 2011, agreements have been reached on several issues – the free flow of people and goods, customs stamps, the acknowledgment of diplomas, integrated border management in Northern Kosovo, and the representation of Kosovo at regional conferences.

The EU is asking Serbia and Kosovo to enhance their relations – to implement the agreements made so far and reach new ones, in order to progress in European integration.

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