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Serbia in turmoil over Kosovo shift

11. September 2010. | 07:47

Source: monstersandcritics.com

Author: Boris Babic

The Serbian political scene went into turmoil Friday after Belgrade made a stunning U-turn in its Kosovo policy in the United Nations by abandoning its hardline stance aimed at blocking any independence of its former province.

The Serbian political scene went into turmoil Friday after Belgrade made a stunning U-turn in its Kosovo policy in the United Nations by abandoning its hardline stance aimed at blocking any independence of its former province.

Belgrade bowed to pressure from the European Union, most of which supports Kosovo's independence and which has threatened to isolate Serbia over its effort to hamper Kosovo's recognition.

While Belgrade's move pleased the international community, however, it shocked its own people as the political turnaround came without any warning at home.

The change of policy was decided mostly by President Boris Tadic. He had not involved the parliament when Belgrade submitted the original, hardline resolution on Kosovo to the UN. On Thursday, he again did not involve parliament, when he hammered out the soft version in a deal with the EU.

'Of the resolution, which Serbia submitted under unclarified circumstances on July 28, virtually nothing remained,' the daily Danas commented on Friday.

Meanwhile, Tadic's Democratic Party was trying to present the 'compromise' with the EU as a 'massive success which keeps the European path clear and allows it to continue fighting for its sovereignty.'

Undermining this view, local newspapers quoted sources as saying that Tadic was preparing to fire his most loyal ally, the hawkish Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, as soon as the diplomat returns from New York.

The opposition, led by the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), went a step further and declared that just firing Jeremic would not do.

The SNS insisted in a statement that Tadic and the entire government had to take responsibility for the 'diplomatic debacle' over Kosovo and called for early elections in its wake.

Too big, the SNS insisted, was the split between the government and the people of Serbia after Thursday's events.

'We are informing the EU that its contacts with representatives of the regime are legal, but are no more an exchange of opinions and agreements with the majority in Serbia,' SNS said in a statement.

The nationalist former premier Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia said Belgrade had 'capitulated' and 'handed the fate of Kosovo and the whole Serbia to Washington and Brussels bureaucrats.'

The opposition accused Tadic, who has limited formal authority but in fact holds more power in his hands than any other politician in Serbia, of lying to the nation by promising to keep Kosovo Serbian over the past two years since it declared independence.

Whilst the government insists it had not sold out on its stance that Kosovo belonged to Serbia, the UN resolution implies - at least in practical terms - that the two sides will now approach each other as independent parties trying to regulate their relatoins as neighbours.

The daily Politika quoted sources as saying that the talks under EU auspices between Serbia and Kosovo on technical issues - such as power supply and transport, via customs affairs and passport issues to practicalities such as the mutual recognition of education standards - may begin as early as this year.

'Once again we have defeated ourselves,' a commentator told Belgrade TV broadcaster B92.

Regardless of the outcome of the political crisis in Serbia itself, it is also unclear what comes next in its relations with Kosovo and also the EU.

Jeremic may face unemployment, but before he left New York, he told the General Assembly that Serbia would 'never tire' of not recognizing Kosovo and his remarks were echoed by the pro-European G17 party, a junior partner in Tadic's ruling coalition.

'We believe that Serbia's European integrations must accelerate, but that at the same time Serbia must never recognize Kosovo,' a high-ranking G17 official, Suzana Grubjesic, told reporters in Belgrade.

What is clear is that by taking the bitter pill of at least nodding in the direction of Kosovo, Serbia created itself room to another attempt at approaching EU membership, after remaining on collision course over the past few years.

But it took somebody in Kosovo to point it out bluntly to Serbs - the Pristinqa daily Koha Ditore said that Serbia will 'benefit' from its own diplomatic defeat, beacuse the compromise over Kosovo opens doors to its European aspirations.


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