30th Sep 2023

Kosovo on Serbia row: 'Much ado about nothing'

  • Bridge to north Kosovo: the no man's land is to fall under Pristina's control (Photo: morbin)

Kosovo says its recent election row with Serbia was "much ado about nothing," while noting that more EU states are preparing to recognise its sovereignty.

Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci and Serbian PM Ivica Dacic held snap talks with EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton on the election issue in Brussels on Monday (7 October).

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The dispute erupted last week when Kosovo declined Dacic's request to visit the ethnic Serb enclave of north Kosovo in the run-up to local elections on 3 November.

Speaking to press in Belgrade on Friday, Dacic said: "I will not allow anyone to humiliate me. Let them look for somebody else for the negotiations. I hope this will not be my last trip to Brussels for the dialogue, but if it is, I won't really miss it."

Speaking to press in Brussels on Monday, he said: "We have agreed to establish a mechanism which would allow Serbian officials to visit Kosovo without problems."

Thaci told Kosovo TV that "Kosovo will respect the accord on the freedom of movement."

For his part, Kosovo's deputy foreign minister, Petrit Selimi, told EUobserver on Tuesday the dispute was "much ado about nothing."

He said Kosovo is happy to host Serbian officials in north Kosovo so long as they do not campaign for one party against another.

Recalling that in the 2012 French elections German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out in favour of one candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, Selimi added: "I don't think Merkel went to French villages to say: 'If you vote for this or that party, then you are traitors'."

He said that under the "mechanism," Dacic and his colleagues can visit north Kosovo if they first ask Kosovo's justice minister for permission and if they promise to refrain from campaigning.

The municipal elections are the first ever Kosovo-wide poll since it declared independence in 2007.

The ethnic Serb enclave previously ruled itself using de facto institutions funded by Serbia. But under an April deal brokered by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, it will fall under Pristina's authority after it elects its new representatives.

Selimi said the vote will be monitored by the Vienna-based watchdog, the OSCE, and by EU delegates.

He added that the elections and the EU-brokered dialogue on "normalisation" of Kosovo-Serb relations are paving the way for the five EU countries which do not recognise Kosovo - Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain - to change their mind.

"They do not want to be more Catholic than the Pope," he noted.

"But the fact that Serbia is recognising Kosovo ID cards, is allowing Kosovo officials to represent us in Belgrade, is treating our Prime Minister as the sole representative of Kosovo, means the old propaganda - that recognising Kosovo will upset the world order - is becoming less convincing," he said.

The five EU non-recognisers are wary, in part, because they do not want to embolden separatist movements at home.

But Selimi says there is "a new momentum" on the issue, citing Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia as potential early movers.

He also noted that eight other countries, including Egypt, Libya and Thailand, recognised Kosovo this year.

"The EU-brokered dialogue is helping in this," he said.


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