Tuesday

22nd Aug 2017

Kosovo to Serbia: Time to face reality

  • Monument in central Pristina: Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 (Photo: CharlesFred)

Kosovo's foreign minister has said the end of supervised independence should make Serbia realise it can never divide Kosovo or get it back.

Speaking to EUobserver from Pristina on Sunday (9 September), ahead of solemnities to end supervised rule on Monday, Enver Hoxhaj said the "historic day" will make Kosovo "a more sovereign nation."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"It's going to change the perception of Kosovar citizens about the nature of statehood. Whatever we do now is in the hands of our people. It is no longer in the hands of the international community," he noted.

Dignitaries from 25 Kosovo-recognising countries - including 20 EU states plus Croatia, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the US - will on Monday meet in Kosovo's capital to formally close the International Civilian Office (ICO).

Run by Dutch diplomat Peter Feith, the ICO has for the past four years made sure Kosovar politicians stick to the so-called Martti Ahitsaari plan - a template for a democratic, secular country which respects the rights of ethnic minorities.

Kosovo MPs on Friday voted by 98 to 10 to take out mention of the ICO from the country's constitution.

EU police and Nato soldiers are to stay for the foreseeable future.

But "Kosovo now has all the structures of a functioning, democratic, multi-ethnic state ... [with] realistic prospects of a normal pre-accession relationship with the European Union," ICO spokesman Christian Palme told this website.

The events take place in the shadow of a new nationalist government in Serbia, putting in doubt previous agreements on day-to-day co-operation, however.

They also take place amid a frozen conflict with Serbs in north Kosovo, who do not accept Pristina's rule - masked gunmen on Friday took potshots at EU and Kosovo police vehicles in the northern region of Zubin Potok, wounding a Kosovar policewoman.

Hoxhaj told EUobserver that: "European institutions and the international community as a whole should put pressure on Serbia to withdraw its security and police forces from municipalities in north Kosovo."

He added: "We were very surprised that 12 years after [the late Serb ultra-nationalist leader] Milosevic we now have in power in Serbia pro-Milosevic forces ... The best thing for Kosovars and for Serbian citizens is for Serbia to accept the realities on the ground so that we can all move forward with our European [accession] agenda."

"Kosovo has been recognised by almost half the members of the UN in its current borders. It is high time for Serbia to start behaving in a European way, to modernise its society and not to seek its destiny outside of the borders of Serbia."

With the ICO's Feith in the past mooting a "Catalonian" solution for north Kosovo by reference to devolved government in the Spanish region, Hoxhaj ruled out any form of autonomy for the Serb enclave.

"The option of partition is totally off the table. We are going to integrate these municipalities with the rest of Kosovo," he said.

He predicted the next step in Kosovo-EU relations will be a European Commission report in October recommending the two sides craft a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) - a standard EU pre-accession pact for Western Balkan countries.

The move would bolster Kosovo nationhood by designating it as a legal entity which can enter into contractual relations with the Union.

Five EU countries - Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain - do not recognise Kosovo, with little prospect of a shift in their position.

But Hoxhaj said the group has played ball on EU-Kosovo state-building in the past and that the commission will find a way to solve the SAA legal quandary. "Let's wait for the report ... I will give you the answer [on the legal solution] when the time comes," he noted.

For his part, the outgoing ICO spokesman said the biggest threat to Kosovo's future is not Serbia, but lawlessness and poverty inside Kosovo itself.

"The rule of law should be further strengthened and Kosovo needs to improve its international image and reputation. These are basic conditions for economic growth," Palme said.

The Kosovar foreign minister noted: "We are more than committed ... to really fight organised crime."

But with the EU police mission, Eulex, currently collecting evidence on allegations that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci himself ran an organ-smuggling mafia in the 1990s, international observers, such as MEPs Ulrike Lunacek and Pino Arlacchi, have in the past voiced fears that the rot goes to the very top.

Serb prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic on Sunday said he has found a former Kosovar Albanian guerrilla willing to testify to organ crimes in the 1998-1999 war.

"He described an operation to take out the heart of a Serb prisoner in a place near Kukes [in north Albania] ... The heart was then sold on the black market," Vukcevic said, according to AFP.

Organised crime problem dogs EU record on Kosovo

Four years after EU police came to Kosovo it has not indicted any top suspects on organised crime, posing questions about its work and the integrity of Kosovo's leaders.

Serb leader bashes EU ahead of key report

Srebrenica was not genocide and Serbia will not bow to demands for Kosovo recognition, Serbia's leader has said on the eve of a key EU report.

Opinion

Overcoming the plot against Turkish democracy

One year after an attempted coup, what Turkey needs is not biased and groundless criticism but more cooperation, dialogue and understanding, writes its Europe minister Omer Celik.

News in Brief

  1. Austria has begun checks at Italian border
  2. Slovenian PM: Brexit talks will take longer than expected
  3. Merkel backs diesel while report warns of economic harm
  4. UK to publish new Brexit papers this week
  5. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  6. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  7. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  8. European Union returns to 2 percent growth

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  4. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  6. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  7. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  8. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  10. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  11. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead