Sunday

22nd Jan 2017

Kosovo: Serbia plan is attempt to 'change borders'

  • The bridge leading to the Serb-controlled town of Mitrovica in north Kosovo is a symbol of de facto division (Photo: morbin)

Kosovo's envoy to the EU has said Serbia's proposal to give autonomy to Serbs in north Kosovo is an attempt to divide his country.

Ilir Dugolli told EUobserver on Thursday (10 January): "One clearly has the impression they haven't abandoned the idea [of partition] ... We strongly reject the proposal and most of our neighbours reject it because it would have serious consequences not just for us but also for these other countries."

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With ethnic Serb and Albanian enclaves in Bosnia, Macedonia and Serbia also aspiring to autonomy, he said that any change to current borders in the region could threaten stability.

He added: "We see this attempt by Serbia as confirmation of their plan, their hopes to still play with the borders."

Dugolli's remarks come ahead of EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels on 17 January.

Progress in the talks, on how to normalise day-to-day relations, will play a big part in whether member states open EU accession negotiations with Serbia in the next few months.

Dugolli spoke after Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic on Wednesday in Belgrade told press the government had formally adopted a "platform" on north Kosovo.

The ethnic Serb enclave is currently a no-go area for Kosovo authorities and is run and funded by Serbia.

It is seen by EU diplomats and by Nato as a "frozen conflict," with sporadic outbursts of deadly violence by ethnic Serb organised crime and paramilitary structures.

The final version of Dacic's "platform" is being kept secret.

But leaked drafts in local media mention the self-governed Spanish region of Catalonia as a model.

The drafts say north Kosovo should be a demilitarised zone controlled by its own police and courts, which reflect "the ethnic composition of their area of jurisdiction" - almost exclusively ethnic Serb.

They also say new ethnic Serb-run institutions should control education, healthcare, housing, mining, energy, telecommunications, trade and finance.

Dacic told press it would mean the end of Serbia's control over the territory and should be welcomed by the EU.

"What we need are Serb institutions that are recognized by all participants in the [EU-mediated dialogue] process," he noted.

"It is not our goal to break up Kosovo ... Our aim is to get a date for the start of negotiations with the EU," he added.

For its part, the EU is keeping quiet ahead of the 17 January meeting.

But EU foreign ministers' conclusions on Serbia and Kosovo adopted on 11 December speak of "a single institutional and administrative set-up within Kosovo."

Kosovo's Dugolli noted that the idea of Serb-run courts and police are among the most problematic.

"A single legal entity in a single legal structure, single courts and a single police [in Kosovo] is a must in order to have normality," he told this website.

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