World Bulletin/News Desk
The European Union cautioned Serbia on Friday not to delay implementing a landmark accord on Kosovo after Belgrade said it might hold a referendum on the deal, which is crucial to its hopes of starting EU membership talks.
The EU-brokered agreement between Serbia and its majority-Albanian former province won Belgrade a preliminary green light for accession talks this year, but the bloc wants progress on the ground before taking a final decision in late June.
The April 19 deal envisages an end to the partition of Kosovo between its ethnic Albanian majority and a small Serb pocket in the north, five years after the territory declared independence. Trying to mollify some 50,000 Serbs in the northern enclave, the Serbian government said on Thursday it might hold a referendum on the agreement.
"It is not up to the European Commission to prescribe how the Serbian authorities would choose to ensure all stakeholders are on board when it comes to implementation of this very important agreement," EU enlargement commission Stefan Fuele told reporters after meeting President Tomislav Nikolic in Belgrade.
"Whatever the way they choose should not delay the process, but at the end actually make sure that the implementation is sustainable," he said.
The government says it will decide next week whether or not to hold a popular vote. It wants to overcome threats of resistance from the north Kosovo Serbs, in a region bristling with weapons and deep animosity.
Serbia has agreed to cede its fragile hold over the north in exchange for the economic boost of EU accession talks, a process that should drive reform and help lure investors to the country's ailing economy.
Two opinion polls published this week suggested a majority of Serbian citizens support the accord. It has the backing of Serbia's coalition government, an alliance of nationalists who last held power together when Serbia went to war with NATO over Kosovo in 1999.
According to the information leaked to the press, the accord consists of 15 articles though the details have not been officially revealed yet. The rights of the Serbian population in Kosovo are taken under guarantee in most items of the agreement according to which the north of Mitrovitsa and other municipalities, mostly populated with the Serbs, are largely given the self-ruling right, Nedim Emin from the New Turkey says.
Emin assessed the agreement as follows:
"The Association/Community of Serb Majority Municipalities in Kosovo shall act as the supreme resort to orchestrate the local administration, the judiciary, security and other economic structures of the Serbs living in Kosovo. Another key point in the blueprint is that the Serbs will have to remain loyal to Pristina. Hereunder, all Serbian institutions in Kosovo shall act in accordance with the Kosovan Constitution and be in integration with Kosovo. Besides, the two countries shall not stand in the way of each other’s European integration process (article 14) and a commission consisting of members from both countries shall be formed to monitor the implementation of the accord (article 15).
“It is not ideal but rational,” said the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Tachi, expressing dissatisfaction on his account. At the end of tough negotiations, the agreement reached between Serbia and Kosovo brings quite critical results for both countries. With this accord, perhaps the biggest obstacle in front of the Serbian accession to the EU has been removed partly. Otherwise, Serbia would have been isolated by international institutions. On the other hand, for Serbia the agreement to normalize relations with Kosovo certainly meant de facto recognition of the Kosovan independence. Although not a clear-cut expression of “recognition” is included in the final draft, Serbia obviously made a leap forward in this direction. On the other side, Serbia has gained sweeping autonomy for those living in northern Kosovo. Normalizing bilateral relations will also positively affect economic activities of the Serbs in the region.
As for Kosovo, the deal is quite critical. Although it seems impossible in the short run, Serbia seems to recognize the independence of Kosovo eventually and that may pave the way for Kosovo’s membership to the UN. The first possible result of the accord in favor of Pristina would be the recognition of Kosovo by the EU countries such as Slovakia, Spain, South Cyprus, Greece and Romania. This will also be a clear message to Serbia that the recognition of Kosovo’s independence is the last obstacle before the Serbian accession to the EU, as known by all but the Serbs. Besides, normalization of bilateral relations will ameliorate Kosovo’s economy in dire straits.
The accord is important for the region as well. Regional countries as much as the global powers in the region are quite interested in the likelihood of problems, which are kept alive between Kosovo and Serbia, turning into a regional conflict in the future. A possible hot encounter in Kosovo may spill over the other regional fault lines; for this reason, the NATO has an urge to be involved in the process and announced guarantorship for the implementation phase of the accord. The deal should also be evaluated as a serious step for the completion of the West Balkans’ integration to the EU."
Last Mod: 29 Nisan 2013, 16:29