Serbian officials claim KFOR is trying to derail Serbia's EU membership candidacy despite the fact the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue resumed and President Boris Tadic called for the removal of barricades in northern Kosovo.
By Linda Karadaku and Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 02/12/11
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton presides over an EU foreign ministers meeting on Thursday (December 1st). [Reuters]
At its meeting Thursday (December 1st) on the security situation in Kosovo, NATO welcomed Serbian President Boris Tadic's call to Kosovo Serbs to remove road barricades in the north.
"This proposal could greatly assist to reduce the tensions. However, KFOR would like to see that positive proposal have a real impact on the ground," KFOR commander Erhard Drews said.
NATO urged both Kosovo and Serbia to exercise restraint, co-operate fully with all international actors to ensure freedom of movement right away, and continue the EU-facilitated dialogue.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she is in direct contact with Tadic and has requested that the barricades are removed and he work to influence those who provoke violence.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule met in Brussels with Kosovo EU Integration Minister Vlora Citaku, and told her the Union will continue to support Kosovo regarding visa liberalisation, participation in EU programmes and concluding a trade agreement.
"I also underlined the importance of Kosovo launching a comprehensive agenda for the north," Fule said. He encouraged Kosovo, ahead of the General Affairs Council meeting on Monday, to continue the positive engagement in dialogue with Belgrade.
"Progress in the dialogue will help to bring both Pristina and Belgrade closer to the EU and help them fulfill their European prospects. Both sides should be pragmatic, creative and flexible during the discussions, in the interest of the citizens of both Kosovo and Serbia and the region at large."
Serbia's Ministry for Kosovo State Secretary Oliver Ivanovic told SETimes that KFOR is forcing conflict in order to derail Serbia's EU membership candidacy scheduled for review on December 9th.
Despite Tadic's last statements that "Serbian interests today are not defended at barricades, though they may have been needed last July when Pristina initiated the unilateral action to capture the crossings," -- Kosovo Serbs remain distrustful.
"We have not as a final goal permanently remaining at the barricades, but also do not have an answer what will happen with Jarinje and Brnjak if they are removed. We are afraid of [Kosovo special police] ROSU's arriving because it would mean termination of all relations with Serbia. But, if our country leaves us to ourselves, it should tell us that. It is not all right when President Tadic repeats that 7.5 million Serbs can not suffer because of us, hundreds of people, and because 'Europe has no alternative'," Zvecan Mayor Dragisa Malovic told SETimes.
Malovic explained that Kosovo Serbs need Serbia's support as they have no other country but Serbia. "This is a constitutional issue and the president should deal with it, and mayors are here to be with the people and prevent disorder," he said.
Political philosopher and editor of the New Serbian Political Thought magazine Bogdana Koljevic told SETimes that Serbia's incoherent and inconsistent position has had a negative effect.
"Everything we saw in recent months ... is a changing attitude so we can not be absolutely sure what is Serbia's and what has changed, and it is obvious something has changed. There is not doubt any longer the barricades and all that the Serbs in northern Kosovo enjoyed is not linked to Serbia's EU candidacy. Even if there was willingness to keep [Serbia's] Kosovo and EU policies together, realising it has proved impossible."
Koljevic is adamant there should be no pressure on Kosovo Serbs to decide what to do next, because their attitude and their opinions must be taken into account.
Malovic said all negotiations and agreements by chief negotiator Borislav Stefanovic have damaged the Kosovo Serbs as they are now forced to drive cars with Kosovo license plates and address court authority that has nothing [to do] with Serbia. Most of all, he said, they are afraid an agreement will be reached for Kosovo customs officers to be placed at the Jarinje and Brnjak crossings, though Stefanovic denies this is a possibility.
The Serbian government formed an Office for Professional and Operational Tasks that will assist Stefanovic and his team in administrative and technical matters and in furtherance of the agreements.
Serbian Renewal Movement MP Aleksandar Jugovic told SETimes the Serbs in northern Kosovo accept proposals from Serbia with difficulty and that achieving dialogue for them is most important.
"The barricades were totally unnecessary; they are against the interests of the Serbs from Kosovo and against the interests of Serbia. The Serbs should withdraw from the barricades under the influence of common sense, because if KFOR uses the powers it received from the Kumanovo Agreement it would be disastrous for the Serbs in northern Kosovo, south of Ibar and for entire Serbia. The barricades must be removed," Jugovic said.