Kosovo, Serbia liaison officers hailed as step toward normalisation

19/06/2013

The posting of the officers does not represent diplomatic relations, government officials note.

By Linda Karadaku and Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 19/06/13

photo

Dejan Pavicevic, Serbia's liaison officer, said he is in Pristina to facilitate communication between the two countries. [AFP]

By exchanging liaison officers, Kosovo and Serbia have taken a step toward normalising relations between their countries, experts and officials said.

Lulzim Peci, Kosovo liaison officer, took office in Belgrade and Dejan Pavicevic, Serbia liaison officer, took office in Pristina on Monday (June 17th). Both are working out of EU offices in Pristina and Belgrade.

"This is another concrete achievement in the context of implementation and an important step towards normalisation of relations," EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said.

Senior officials in both countries hailed the move.

"The opening of the special diplomatic mission of the Republic of Kosovo in the Republic of Serbia is an important step toward the normalisation of the relations between two sovereign and independent neighboring countries," Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga told SETimes. "The mission of ambassador Lulzim Peci has a special importance which contributes to the overall development of the relations up to the full normalisation, mutual recognition and establishment of diplomatic relations."

Peci said the countries are introducing a diplomatic presence into each other's capitals, but not diplomatic relations.

"In the way this agreement has been constituted on the liaison arrangements, it has been done in the spirit of the convention for special missions, which also includes the establishment of such missions from countries that do not recognise each other," Peci told Kosovo media.

Pavicevic said he is in Pristina to facilitate the communication between Kosovo and Serbia, respecting the agreement reached in Brussels.

"We need a normalisation of the relations between the Serbs and the Albanians. We had our differences, we had our problems, we still have some disagreements, but as people we need to communicate. We have not recognised Kosovo, I have said it hundreds of times and I will always say it," Pavicevic said, according to Kosovo agency Indeksonline.

Krstimir Pantic, deputy director of the Serbian office for Kosovo, underlined that the exchange of liaison officers does not represent the establishment of diplomatic relations.

"Posting liaison officers in Belgrade and Pristina should help alleviate the tensions and improve communication. However, these officers won't have a significant practical authority and influence in the field," Pantic told SETimes.

"I am certain that Serbs, especially those in the south of Kosovo, would feel safer having a new representative-liaison officer from Serbia," he added.

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But not everyone was happy with this step.

"Serbs in Kosovo do not care about the liaison officer coming from Serbia to Pristina; their major concerns are safety and daily issues," Slavica Radulovic, a resident in Mitrovica, told SETimes.

"I am more concerned with whether or not I am going to have Serbian citizenship and documents, and what the legal system and police are going to be like here. As for the liaison officer, I don't think many people care about that here," Radulovic said.

How can the liaisons make a difference in Serbia-Kosovo relations? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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