By Biljana Pekusic and Muhamet Brajshori
The recent visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton to Belgrade and Pristina was the most “positive support for Serbia yet,” former Serbian Ambassador to the US Ivan Vujacic told SETimes.
“Through dialogue with Pristina, without any conditions, [Serbia can] progress towards the EU and improve the lives of their compatriots in Kosovo,” Vujacic said.
He added that the new government in Belgrade has opened the way for a solution to the many problems between the two countries.
Clinton, after meeting with Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic on October 30th in Belgrade, reiterated Kosovo’s independence and said that its borders will not change, but encouraged Kosovo and Serbia to work together.
Ashton said the dialogue “is about making lives better.” She sidestepped the larger political question of Kosovo’s status.
“I am so glad we are not asked to do something that we cannot. We can not recognise Kosovo, but the Serbian government wants to go to a meeting to solve the problem and end the mandate resolve all outstanding issues with Kosovo,” Dacic said after the meeting.
Daniel Serwer, a professor of conflict management at Johns Hopkins University in the US, told SETimes that although Clinton’s message to respect the borders [of Kosovo] is important, he thinks the recognition issue will be back on the agenda before Serbia joins the EU.
“Serbia cannot claim to uphold [UN Security Council] Resolution 1244 unless it accepts that Kosovo is a single entity and cannot be divided. Yes, Belgrade will in the future have to recognize Kosovo and establish diplomatic relations with it, if it wants membership in the EU,” Serwer said.
Seb Bytyci, executive director of Balkan Policy Institute, agreed.
“Essentially, the [bottom] line is that even if Serbia does not recognise Kosovo, it has to drop its claim to it. In the short term, there can be an agreement not to recognise Kosovo, but in the long term, Serbia is expected to recognise Kosovo,” Bytyci told SETimes.
Serwer said it remains to be seen if both sides will be pragmatic and co-operative about the north.
“The north can be resolved through the self-governance provided in the Ahtisaari plan, with appropriate additional implementation agreements. For example, if the Serbs are concerned that the legitimate flow of resources might be interrupted by Pristina, that may require additional implementation guarantees,” he said. “Belgrade’s agreement to absorb Serbs or others who choose not to stay in Kosovo may also be required.”
Citizens, too, said the time will come for recognition. “This is just a diplomatic game, but it is good if Washington and Brussels have goodwill to not put a lot of pressure on Serbia” Ljubomir Pavlovic, a teacher from Belgrade, told SETimes.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said the dialogue is in the Euro-Atlantic interests of Kosovo and Serbia.
“Kosovo has built a broad political and civic consensus for this process, understanding or trying understand the opposers of this process,” Thaci said.
In Pristina, citizens said the visit is a success for Kosovo, but they remain skeptical of the high-level talks.
“It is good that they give guarantees that Kosovo will not be divided, but I don’t know how the north will be resolved, and I don’t think the dialogue will resolve the problem,” Kushtrim Hasani, a student from Pristina, told SETimes.