21st Sep 2020

Belgrade will not bargain on Kosovo, Serbian PM says

  • Mr Kostunica is standing firm on Kovoso (Photo: European Commission)

The breakaway province of Kosovo cannot be the object of "any sort of trade or any sort of deal" with Belgrade, Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica said in Brussels on Wednesday (12 September).

Denying speculation in some media that various member states are considering accelerated EU integration in return for leeway from Serbia on the Kosovo question, Mr Kostunica said "Serbia doesn't think of any sort of trade when it comes to Kosovo".

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The EU announced on Monday (10 September) that Brussels and Belgrade had agreed on the text of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia – the first step towards EU membership.

Signing the SAA would depend on Serbia's full cooperation with the International Crime Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), however.

The country previously started talks on a SAA in October 2005, but they were suspended a few months later because of Belgrade's failure to capture war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic.

Provided that it cooperates fully with the tribunal, Serbia could sign its SAA with the EU by the end of this year, European commissioner president Jose Manuel Barroso said during the joint press conference with Mr Kostunica.

But the Serbian premier stood firm on his position on Kosovo, stressing once again that a solution should be found within the UN only and that unilaterally proclaimed independence of the province – something it has said it may do - would represent a violation of international law.

In such a case, "the damage would not be only to Serbia (…) or to those countries which would recognise Kosovo. It would be much broader", Mr Kostunica said.

"One cannot violate the UN charter in one case and not violate it in some others. One cannot bypass the Security Council in one case and not bypass it in others. It is putting in question the authority of the United Nations. So maybe the largest damage would be to the UN", he said.

The Serbian prime minister also rejected claims that Belgrade had been considering a partition of Kosovo along ethnic lines.

These claims are a "lie disseminated" by the authorities of Pristina, he said, adding that "Serbia is against partition of Serbia, this means dismembering of Kosovo" as part of the Serbian territory.

This option is opposed by the EU, which hopes there will be agreement on the future status of the breakaway province before 10 December – the deadline set by the international community.

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Wanted: EU-US cooperation on Kosovo

International burden-sharing worked in Kosovo - until the Trump administration announced White House talks with the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia on June 27, leaving the EU special envoy for the Western Balkans in the dark.

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