23rd Sep 2023

Kosovo will proclaim independence on 17 February, Serbia says

The Serbian breakaway province of Kosovo intends to proclaim independence next Sunday (17 February), Serbia said on Friday, saying it has information to back up the claim.

"The Serbian government has received more and more significant information that [Kosovo's prime minister] Hashim Thaci will illegally declare the unilateral independence of Kosovo on February 17," Slobodan Samardzic, Serbia's minister for Kosovo was quoted as saying by press agencies on Friday (8 February).

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Mr Samardzic did not specify the source of Serbia's information, however.

The Serbian minister's comments came after a meeting with EU official Stefan Lehne, a special advisor to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Mr Lehne was in Belgrade to clarify the EU's plans to send a civilian mission to Kosovo, according to the Associated Press.

Serbia opposes the EU mission unless it is approved by the UN, seeing it as a step towards Kosovo's independence.

After the EU approved the 1,800-strong mission earlier this week, the signing of an interim political agreement with Belgrade was delayed.

The EU agreement offered Serbia closer trade relations, relaxed visa requirements and educational cooperation. It was to be signed on Thursday (7 February).

Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica – who believes the deal is aimed at luring Serbia into recognising Kosovo - blocked a government meeting set to give the country's deputy premier, Bojidar Djelic, a mandate to sign the deal.

EU deal is 'double zero'

On Friday, Mr Samardzic expressed similar views.

"The EU cannot expect that just before the unilateral declaration of independence announced for the 17th of February, that Serbia itself signs for the independence of Kosovo," he said.

The minister for Kosovo went further, accusing the EU of trying to deceive Serbia by a deal "without any substance".

"The deal is nothing. Double zero," he was quoted as saying by Serbian news site

"It's unfortunate that the EU has infiltrated the Serbian political system in this way just a day after the election of a new president," Mr Samardzic added, referring to the approval of the Kosovo mission on the day following Serbia's presidential elections.

Earlier this week, the EU lashed out at Serbia for delaying the signing of the political agreement, which Brussels insisted had nothing to do with the situation in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, Kosovo's premier Hashim Thaci said on Friday that the province's independence "is a done [deal]. Everybody knows it," AFP reports.

Mr Thaci added that his government had confirmation Kosovo's independence would receive "massive international recognition … [from] about 100 countries" immediately after it is proclaimed.

Kosovo, legally a part of Serbia's territory, has been under UN governance since 1999. The question of its future status has remained unsolved for years.

Pristina wants full independence, but Belgrade – backed by its traditional ally Russia – categorically opposes it.

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