Vucic: Belgrade, Pristina ‘hit a wall’, Kurti presents draft framework for ethnic Serbs
After the latest high-level EU-facilitated meeting between Belgrade and Pristina, Serbian President Aleksander Vucic said talks have hit a wall, while Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti said he presented his own plan to diffuse ethnic tensions.
Following a meeting on normalising relations in Brussels in February and a follow up in Ohrid in March, the two leaders met in Brussels once again to hammer out details on the controversial Association of Serb Municipalities and the issue of those missing after the 1998-1999 Kosovo war.
No agreement was forthcoming on the association, with Vucic calling out Kurti for refusing to implement the agreement which was signed in 2013 as a part of the same EU dialogue process.
“I am worried, and it is clear that Pristina does not want to fulfill its commitments from ten years ago. I knew and understood that. But today, we have hit a wall”, Vučić told journalists.
The draft statute of the SMA does not, he said, include a single point that hadn’t been previously discussed and signed.
“They claim that it is contrary to Kosovo’s constitution, that they do not want a Republika Srpska… Even though all the points of the draft clearly call on previously agreed articles from 2013 and 2015”, Vučić said.
“Either we will agree on something, and what was previously agreed upon will be implemented, or this is it. I do not want to speak in the name of the EU, because the EU understood enough. I have warned from the beginning that this will happen. I am never happy when there is not an agreement, but since none of the four of us saw the possibility of one, we went our separate ways”, he said.
While the association was agreed on in 2013, a subsequent Constitutional Court ruling found that many of its provisions went against the country’s constitution. Kurti has since laied down various conditions for its establishment while President Vjosa Osmani has said she would accept a structure that did not have executive powers.
After the meeting, Kurti said he presented his own framework for the association, adding it adheres to the proper “values and principles” and “should be treated seriously by mediators” so “we can build something good, fair, useful for everyone, not only for Serbs because they should live in our country and be members of our society.”
Kurti criticised the draft presented by the EU consisting of 67 articles, calling it “fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution, legality, democracy, European values, human and minority rights according to European standards.”
As for Kurti’s proposed framework, he said it is based on point 7 of the Ohrid agreement and offers a self-governing framework drawing on conventions from the Council of Europe.
It includes points on the education of Serb children, funding from Kosovo but also Serbia and the international community, direct communication between the Pristina government and the Consultative Council of the Association, and full recognition of the characteristics of the Republic of Kosovo.
Other points include respecting the laws of Kosovo, promoting constitutional values, and respecting pluralism and free speech. Kurti said he used the Serbia-Croatia agreement as a model.
Belgrade wants Serbs in the north of the country to have their own structures for the government as well as increased rights. However, the Kosovo constitution is multi ethnic and does not foresee the creation of mono-ethnic structures. Furthermore, Serbs enjoy considerable rights in the country in every area, more so than some other ethnic minorities.
Vucic stated that he is now worried and that he hopes that by the next round, which is to take place in mid to late May, “others who could influence a change in attitudes will react”.
“Otherwise, we are all in a dead end”, he concluded.
(Bojana Zimonjić, EURACTIV.rs, Alice Taylor | EURACTIV.com)