Serbia Wants Kosovo Pledge on Army in Northern Serb AreasGordana Filipovic
Serbia wants Kosovo to commit to keeping its army out of the Serb-dominated north of its former breakaway province, while giving locals control over the police and judiciary, President Tomislav Nikolic said.
Nikolic spoke to reporters before European Union-sponsored negotiations in Brussels tomorrow between Serbian Premier Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. Those talks won’t be “final,” he said in Belgrade today.
“We’re not sending a delegation that will accept nothing,” Nikolic said. Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo must “be given decision-making rights on police and judiciary,” and the Kosovo army to be formed “by summer” must never be placed in the Serbian communities, he said.
The EU has demanded that the two sides, at loggerheads since the wars of the 1990s, reach a political settlement to move ahead with EU entry. Serbia’s struggling to obtain a date for the start of membership talks in June, while Kosovo is line for a Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first formal step toward membership in the 27-nation bloc.
Serbs in the north of Kosovo blocked an administrative checkpoint between Serbia and Kosovo to draw the attention of negotiators in Brussels that they “won’t accept any solutions for Kosovo that are against the constitution,” state-run news agency Tanjug said today.
Serbia is “not refusing anything in advance nor seeking ideal solutions,” and no one will “provoke us into abandoning the talks,” Nikolic said. Serbia has been punished every time it abandoned talks when faced with ultimatums, Nikolic said, pledging “never to recognize Kosovo’s independence.”
Dacic said on March 28 that Serbia would reject any “humiliating” compromise. He will be accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, leader of the biggest party, the Serbian Progressive Party of former nationalists.
Serbia is seeking deeper economic ties with the rest of Europe after civil wars in the 1990s stunted its transformation from communism. Dacic’s nine-month-old Cabinet is struggling to narrow the budget gap and spur growth after the economy plunged into its second recession in three years.