By Fatmir Aliu
Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, on Monday said he was ready to give ground in the dispute with Serbia over the way Kosovo is represented in regional meetings.
Bowing to one of Belgrade’s demands, he said Kosovo would agree to be represented at such meetings in future with reference also to UN Resolution 1244.
The 1999 resolution empowered the UN to take control of the former Serbian province without prejudicing Serbia’s claim to the territory.
Thaci said that the concession, which will anger Kosovo nationalists, did not compromise Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. But Serbia does not recognise the new country and Belgrade refuses to participate in fora and conferences where Kosovo is represented as an independent country with its own state symbols.
With a view to normalizing relations, Pristina and Belgrade entered into dialogue mediated by the European Union last March, mainly on technical issues.
During the negotiations, Kosovo has insisted that it be represented as “The Republic of Kosovo”, a formula that Serbia finds unacceptable.
Serbia insists on Kosovo being represented in regional talks with a reference to UN Resolution 1244, which Pristina rejected up till Monday.
Thaci has been under strong pressure from the public not to compromise on the issue.
The biggest opposition party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, criticized the mooted compromise, saying it will encourage countries to remain neutral on the question of its independent status, which Serbia disputes.
Thaci was “giving up the constitutional elements of our statehood,” the LDK said.
He was “trying to manipulate the public by saying that Kosovo will be represented simultaneously with a postscript, besides Resolution 1244, referring also to the opinion of the ICJ [International Court of Justice] and Kosovo’s declaration of independence,” it added.
Kosovo’s apparent move towards compromise comes after Washington urged it to be flexible in finding a solution with Serbia on its representation at regional meetings.
A visiting US official recently said that symbolic and technical questions were less important than Kosovo getting a seat in regional fora.
The next round of EU-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina starts on February 21, where the agenda will cover the vexed issue of Kosovo’s representation at regional meetings.