21st Oct 2018

EU and US quash Serbia constitution Kosovo claim

Serbia's claim to sovereignty over Kosovo in its new draft constitution will not impact the UN's handling of Kosovo status talks, EU and US officials say, amid worries over the rise of radical politics in Belgrade.

"We are aware of the references on Kosovo that the constitution makes, but this is an issue which has to be clarified with the UN security council," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana's spokeswoman told Balkans agency DTT-NET.COM on Monday (2 October).

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French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptise Mattei stated "The mentioning of Kosovo in the constitution doesn't put in question the current process led by [UN regional envoy] Martti Ahtisaari."

And US state department spokesman Tom Casey said in Washington on Monday that "neither party is going to unilaterally decide this. This is going to be something that's going to have to be worked out among them through this negotiated process that was mandated under the original UN security council resolution [1244]."

The statements come after Belgrade on Saturday put into play a new constitution which states in its preamble that Kosovo is "a constituent part of Serbia's territory."

The charter is to be ratified via referendum in late October despite ongoing UN-Serbia-Kosovo talks about granting Kosovo independence while protecting the Serb ethnic minority in the region.

"Serbian politicians know perfectly well that the status of Kosovo is being resolved through the UN. I don't think that the international community will be impressed by attempts to prejudge the issue," International Crisis Group analyst Nicholas Whyte said.

"I think that Kosovo is likely to become independent," he added, echoing similar remarks by senior UK and Danish diplomats in February and June this year.

Kosovo is formally part of Serbia but has been under UN administration since 1999, after NATO intervened to stop a Serb military crackdown on ethnic-Albanians living in the hilly, Western Balkan territory.

Radicalisation fears

The UN originally planned to resolve the Kosovo status question by the end of 2006, but the timing is becoming increasingly controversial as Serbia heads toward general elections that could see radical parties score gains from a Kosovo deal.

Moderate Serb politicians in the camp of president Boris Tadic, prime minister Vojislav Kostunica and the G17 party have warned Brussels that Kosovo sovereignty could see the radicals of Vojislav Seselj and ex-Milosevic supporters return to power amid a nationalist backlash.

Serbian national pride already took a hit in May when Montenegro split from its state union with Serbia to start separate EU accession talks, with Kosovo now remaining as the last figment of the Milosevic vision of a greater Serbia.

With no date set for the elections - Serb media speculation says December 2006 or Spring 2007 - Europe and the US are giving ambiguous messages on the Kosovo status timing for now.

"We [the EU] are not certain if the Kosovo settlement will be achieved in December," an EU diplomat told DTT-NET.COM on Tuesday, but the US continues to push for end-2006 as a UN security council deadline.

Speaking on a visit to Belgrade last week, US diplomat Daniel Fried said he doesn't see "any argument which demonstrates a delay would bring anything at all."

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