Kosovo citizens, analysts criticise Serbian liaison situation

24/06/2013

The quick turnaround of liaison officers in Serbia sparked criticism from citizens and analysts.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 24/06/13

photo

Former Ambassador to Croatia Valdet Sadiku (right, with former Croatian President Stipe Mesic) became Kosovo's liaison to Serbia on Friday (June 21st). [Kosovo Foreign Ministry]

Valdet Sadiku, former Kosovo ambassador to Croatia, started his new post as the liaison officer in Belgrade, amid criticism from citizens and analysts who said the situation was unprofessional.

The path toward the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia hit a bump when Kosovo's first liaison officer in Belgrade, Lulzim Peci, resigned within 48 hours of taking his post due to disagreements with Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

In his letter of resignation, Peci said he disagreed with Thaci's comments that the full normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia would be done when Serbia recognises the independence of Kosovo.

"I have been convinced that the state policy of our country regarding the full normalisation of the relations with Belgrade has been exactly the recognition from the Republic of Serbia, but as it seems, this policy is not such," Peci said.

The Kosovo Foreign Ministry reacted harshly towards the resignation. "[Peci's] one-day stay and the immediate return to Pristina, as well as other issues related to his behaviour … have not represented the Republic of Kosovo with dignity," it said in a statement.

Citizens questioned the seriousness of the ministry toward the situation.

"Our government must be very careful in such things because they are about the image of Kosovo. Whatever it was, whatever the reasons or explanations for all that happened with Lulzim Peci, we had an ambassador who resigned within a couple of days and that does not seem very serious," Pristina resident Teuta Qerimi told SETimes.

Vilson Tunaj, who also lives in Pristina, agreed, saying the situation caused confusion.

"If Lulzim Peci was so bad why did they appoint him?" Tunaj said. "They should be much more serious and more professional in such things."

Analysts joined citizens in criticising the turnover.

"Such a high level lack of seriousness was not expected. The appointment of an officer from Kosovo to Belgrade was one of the sensible steps that the government of Kosovo has undertaken in this phase of the negotiations and in an attempt to normalise the relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Therefore, the resignation of Mr. Peci was a surprise and showed a level of concern for the diplomatic approach of Kosovo," Petrit Zogaj, executive director of the Kosovo Movement Fol (Speak up), told SETimes.

Belul Beqaj, Kosovo political commentator and university professor, said the resignation was a personal and state scandal.

"The ambassador represents, affirms and protects the defined interests of the state policy. Therefore, if he did not agree with the official state policies, it would have been better if he did not accept such a duty. …It would have been much better than being an ambassador, making a personal and state scandal, even though, I agree with what he (Peci) said," Beqaj told SETimes.

The foreign ministry said, however, that the mission will go forward as planned under Sadiku, who took over the post on Friday (June 21st).

"Ambassador Sadiku has worked in many important international organizations, has good knowledge of the region and of the bilateral issues with Serbia and after the good performance in Croatia, we are convinced that he will create a positive impact on the deepening of the process of normalisation between the two neighbouring countries," Kosovo Deputy Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi told SETimes.

The situation did not seem to make much of an impact in Belgrade, however.

"If I understand correctly this whole case is the result of clash between Thaci and Peci, so I would not say that there are [any effects on] the relations between Serbia and Kosovo," Dragan Popovic, director of the Policy Centre in Belgrade, told SETimes.

Thaci and Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic met with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton in Brussels last week to discuss the progress in the implementation of the April agreement based on the plan that the two sides adopted last month.

Ashton said concrete progress has been achieved and that the prime ministers agreed on a number of issues in the fields of justice, police and upcoming municipal elections.

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"With a view to the meeting of the Council and the European Council [this] week, I will now inform the member states about the progress in the implementation of the April agreement, confirming that concrete steps toward a visible and sustainable improvement of relations between the two sides were taken," Ashton said.

Miranda Gafurri, an economist in Pristina, said officials need to be careful in decisions "because any agreement from which Kosovo does not benefit, but Serbia does, is damaging in the long term for Kosovo."

"Only Serbia benefits from this agreement in its path to enter the EU, and Kosovo is offered nothing: no visas liberalisation, no EU membership, no recognition from Serbia," Gafurri added.

What can Pristina officials do to regain their footing in the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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