Belgrade and Pristina - Nothing Is Decided until Everything Is Decided
Dessislava Dimitrova, 15 January 2013
2013 is the year when, in the words of Serbia's PM Ivica Dacic, in his country life will be "an idea better". 2013 is also the year when, if it continues with reforms, Serbia could receive a date for starting EU accession negotiations. Of course, there are certain conditions, the most important of which - normalising relations with Kosovo. So, not wasting time, on its very first meeting this year, the Serbian government adopted two key documents in that direction: a resolution and a platform to be used by the authorities in Belgrade as a foundation for their further relations with Pristina.
Both documents were voted by Parliament at an extraordinary session last Saturday, January 12. Although the main points in the platform have been revealed by some Serbian media, after the cabinet meeting, attended by President Nikolic as well, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said the platform about how the political talks with the representatives of the authorities in Pristina would take place "would not be entirely revealed in the public domain because it is not acceptable the other side to learn about the Belgrade's tactics for negotiations". In this way, the resolution is public, while the platform secret, commented last week Belgrade daily Politika.
In the end of the day, after 14 hours of debates, a little after midnight local time on Sunday, the members of the Serbian Parliament have approved the document which envisages all future agreements with Pristina to be based on the resolution and in which a major focus is the creation of an autonomous community of the Serbian municipalities in Kosovo. Three amendments were introduced to the initial text of the resolution, proposed by the parliamentary committee on Kosovo and Metohija, which were agreed during joint meetings between the president, the prime minister and the leaders of parliamentary groups.
In the meantime, at an extraordinary session in the building of Parliament, the government has decided to take off the "secret" regime from the Platform for Negotiations with the Representatives of the Temporary Institutions for Self-governance in Pristina, in which it is said that Serbia does not recognise Kosovo's independence and that the autonomous community includes the four Serbian municipalities in the northern part of the former province, as well as the other where there is Serbian population. "The Serbian side proposes the division of [the autonomous territory] Kosovo into several regions, of which one to be an Autonomous community of the Serbian municipalities of Kosovo", the platform reads. The creation of a two-chamber parliament is also proposed, where the upper chamber will be a Chamber of Regions and Religious Communities, while the other - of the citizens.
According to the document, the autonomy of the Serbian municipalities would mean an autonomy in several areas, including education, health care and welfare. In the area of justice, independence is envisaged for some of the courts as well as the establishment of independent police in the framework of the Kosovo Ministry of Interior. It is important to note that in the resolution, which is based on the platform, it is also written that "Serbia is moving toward a dialogue with the temporary authorities in Kosovo realising how important it is to achieve an acceptable for both sides solution in the context of the integration of the entire region of the Western Balkans in the European Union".
Besides, the resolution points out that the aim of the talks is creating conditions for a Serbian and other national communities in Kosovo that would ensure the security and human rights of all its inhabitants and that the purpose of the talks is to lead to "peace, stability and European future for Serbia and the region" in a constant dialogue with the Serbs in Kosovo.
Nenad Djurdjevic, a coordinator of the Belgrade Forum for Ethnic Relations, commented for Al Jazeera Balkans that there are three main differences between the draft of the resolution and the final version voted by the parliament, which are: the sentence that puts forward conditions for technical conditions is removed; removed is also the phrase "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", and also removed is the part saying that for the security of the Kosovo citizens take care the Serbian and Albanian police. In Djurdjevic's words, the idea to create an independent Serbian community within Kosovo is difficult to achieve in the current environment in the Serbian municipalities, but it shows how Belgrade sees the perfect way to solve the issue and the final aim is in fact finding a long-term solution for Northern Kosovo.
Regarding the resolution as a whole, he commented that it gives enough grounds for manoeuvres to Serbia in the negotiations with Kosovo which will be renewed on January 17th and that it is very important concrete results to be delivered by the end of March if Serbia really wants to get a date to start accession talks in the summer of this year.
On the other hand, Danijel Server, a Balkan analyst with the American university Johns Hopkins, says in a commentary for the Anatolian agency that the new Serbian platform will not sufficiently improve the relations between Belgrade and Pristina and that with the new formulation the Albanians in Kosovo will remain living within Serbian borders which, in his words, is "Slobodan Milosevic's dream come true". He warns of possible armed clashes, but nonetheless he believes that the re-tailoring of borders in the Balkans is over and that Serbia has in fact recognised Kosovo the moment when it decided to take a seat on the negotiations table with the Pristina representatives.