By Bojana Milovanovic
Unresolved relations with Kosovo over its declaration of independence, made four years ago, remain the main hindrance for Serbia’s EU integration. The resolution of the dispute is the key to the Balkan country’s EU candidate status.
So far, Kosovo is recognised by more than 80 countries worldwide, and 22 out of the 27 EU member states, which are continued obstacles to Serbia’s efforts within the international community.
“Serbia will do everything to obtain EU candidate status, but not violate its constitution and the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 in the process, and we will take care of our national interests,” Borislav Stefanovic, the chief of the Belgrade negotiating team told SETimes concerning talks with Pristina.
He added that Serbia at no point was explicitly asked to recognise Kosovo independence.
Serbia is asked to engage in a dialogue and establish good relations with Pristina, with a key to finding a solution to the Kosovo representation problem at regional and international meetings.
Stefanovic announced forthcoming intense diplomatic activity in the coming period, “so as to create the best possible conditions for Serbia’s EU integration, and in finding an acceptable solution.”
“I don’t know how to solve the problem, that’s up to the politicians, I just know we must not give up on Kosovo, because if we do, we will give up on ourselves,” Milorad Trajkovic, a pensioner, told SETimes.
“We lost Kosovo a long time ago, only no one has the guts to admit it. They’re deceiving and lying to us. We lost it thanks to incompetent politicians and, unfortunately, there is no going back,” Darko Smiljanic, a physician, told SETimes.
Serbian State Secretary at the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija Oliver Ivanovic told SETimes in a statement that Kosovo independence is not a done deal for Serbia, but added that one could not overlook that over 80 countries acknowledged its status.
“Serbia must observe the constitution, which states that Kosovo is still part of Serbia. Serbia will continue to invest efforts into keeping Kosovo, in the political and territorial sense. That will not be easy, but Serbia has that obligation,” Ivanovic said.
He says that each time Serbia goes forward in the EU integration process Kosovo springs up as a problem and says Serbia should not be conditioned and blackmailed by anyone.
“It is a fact that 22 of the 27 EU member countries recognised that independence. I think it was hinted on several occasions that this would not affect Serbia. Our strategic goal is to be a member of the EU, but that goal cannot jeopardise the other objective of, in some way, preserving Kosovo within Serbia,” Ivanovic says.
He adds that the Cyprus model must be implemented in the case of Serbia and Kosovo.
“Serbia should join the EU with Kosovo as soon as possible, with the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, that is, with implementing EU legislation in the territory of Kosovo temporarily suspended. The moment the representatives of Kosovo Albanians change their political position, the negotiations will continue and lead to a permanent rather than a temporary solution. What we have now is a temporary solution,” Ivanovic said.
He adds that the Serbs in Kosovo are now living with a sense of fear and distrust in Kosovo institutions.
“We have a memory of history and remember very well that those institutions were an instrument in the hands of Albanian nationalists serving as additional pressure on the Serbs. That memory is still fresh and I fear that might happen again, I fear that Kosovo institutions, without international supervision, could just force the remaining Serbs to leave,” Ivanovic said.