Serbia’s official position in the dialogue with Kosovo is to go for a border demarcation along ethnic lines between Belgrade and its former province, Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić has said without elaborating further. Dačić’s statement was met with protests in both Belgrade and Priština.
The foreign minister said the border would be located where both sides found it acceptable but did not say if demarcation would also mean Serbia’s formal recognition of Kosovo, whose 2008 independence Belgrade still rejects.
Reaching full normalisation with Kosovo is a key condition for Serbia to advance its EU membership bid, on top of economic and legal reforms.
Speaking about a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump, in which he called for the mutual recognition of Serbia and Kosovo, Dačić said the entire context of that message should be taken into account, rather than just that particular part.
“This is a big change because the U.S. government has opened the possibility of some kind of compromise. Before it was only recognition. Here it says mutual recognition, but only after an agreement. Now Priština is in the spotlight because it is an obstacle to an agreement,” the Serbian foreign minister said after a meeting in Belgrade on 19 February.
Dačić also said Priština’s moves had to do with relations in Europe and the world and explained that there were countries that supported the dialogue, like France and Austria, and those who want the whole thing over and done with as soon as possible, like Britain and Germany.
“Not everyone is putting the same pressure on Priština. (…) Trump’s letter incites a permanent solution, that is the most important part,” said Dačić.
The Serbian minister also said that the hypocrisy of the Kosovo authorities was evident in the matter of the debt Serbia was paying on Kosovo’s behalf. In his words, there is about €200 million left to be paid.
“When something needs to be paid, then they’re a part of Serbia, whereas where property is concerned, they are independent,” the Serbian foreign minister told reporters.
The president of the opposition People’s Party and one of the leaders of the Alliance for Serbia, Vuk Jeremić, said that demarcation was a “fig leaf” for the recognition of Kosovo and asked “how can something the Serbian parliament was not even informed about, let alone decided on, represent state policy?”
Jeremić said the demarcation proposal “violates the Constitution of Serbia and the oath Aleksandar Vučić took when he took the office of president”.
He added that the Alliance for Serbia advocated compromise solutions to the Kosovo issue in line with the Serbian Constitution and the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, as well as that prior to resolving the issue of status all property issues and issues related to the human rights of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija needed to be resolved.
In Priština, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj described as unreasonable and unacceptable Dačić’s proposal for demarcation between Kosovo and Serbia on ethnic grounds, stressing that nothing like that had ever been achieved anywhere.
“Dačić’s stance is not new, he has once again confirmed that Serbia’s official position is, therefore, ethnic division, but that is precisely what caused tragedies in the Balkans in the past,” the Kosovo prime minister said after a government session on 19 February.
At the same time, he accused the EU’s diplomacy chief, Federica Mogherini, of leading a secret dialogue on the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
“Mogherini had a secret dialogue. It would be good if she came out with it into the open, rather than keep it secret. The dialogue should continue,” Haradinaj said.
He repeated that Priština would not lift tariffs on imports from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, despite demands from the US and the EU, until Belgrade and Pristina reached an agreement on mutual recognition.
In late November 2018, Kosovo imposed 100% tariffs on imports from Serbia and Bosnia. The tariffs are obstructing trade and blocking the Brussels-sponsored dialogue on normalisation, which Belgrade and Priština are leading with EU mediation.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]