Tag Archives: Pristina

NATO regrets Kosovo “ill-timed” army formation

Today, the Institutions in Kosovo have announced the adoption of the three laws initiating the process of transition of the Kosovo Security Force“-  Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO  said in an issued statement.

“I regret that this decision was made despite the concerns expressed by NATO. While the transition of the Kosovo Security Force is in principle a matter for Kosovo to decide, we have made clear that this move  is ill-timed. 

“NATO supports the development of the Kosovo Security Force under its current mandate. With the change of mandate, the North Atlantic Council will now have to re-examine the level of NATO’s engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.

“NATO remains committed through KFOR to a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and to stability in the wider Western Balkans.

“All sides must ensure that today’s decision will not further increase tensions in the region. All responsible political actors in the region need to focus on progress with reforms, and on dialogue. I reiterate my call on both Pristina and Belgrade to remain calm and refrain from any statements or actions which may lead to escalation. NATO continues to support the EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina as the only lasting political solution for the region.” – the statement concludes.

MEPs call for more committment between Belgrade and Pristina

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The recent progress in normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina, after months of little or none, was welcomed by MEPs on Tuesday. However, in two resolutions they call on both countries to show more commitment and sustained political will to achieve this goal, which is a condition for their accession to the EU.

“Serbia is on its path towards the EU. The Serbian government is tackling the challenges of creating jobs, enhancing competitiveness and boosting growth. Important economic reforms have been adopted to strengthen the business environment in the country”, said EP rapporteur David McAllister (EPP, DE). “In 2017, Serbia should continue to put special emphasis on strengthening the rule of law, as corruption and organised crime still represent an obstacle to the country’s democratic, social and economic development”, he added.

The resolution on Serbia, passed by 55 votes to 2, with 2 abstentions, welcomes the opening of negotiations on several chapters in 2016 including chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice, freedom and security) which are key to the process. It also calls on Serbia to align its foreign policy with the EU’s, including its policy on Russia, to ensure judicial independence in practice and to revise its Constitution.

“Today’s vote again sends a strong signal that the future of an independent Kosovo lies in the European Union. With only a few steps to go on the way to visa liberalisation, the report  encourages all political parties in Kosovo to continue their work for Kosovo in a constructive manner and European spirit”, said rapporteur Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT). “The two remaining benchmarks can and must be fulfilled by Kosovo soon: ratification of the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and a track record of high-level convictions for corruption and organized crime”, she added.

MEPs welcome the entry into force of the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) on 1 April 2016 as the “first contractual relationship”, and the European Commission proposal to waive visas for Kosovan citizens, although to date a couple of important criteria have yet to be met. They express concern at the persistent extreme polarisation of the political landscape, regret the slow pace of Kosovo’s efforts to build an adequate and efficient administrative capacity and condemn the violent disruption of these efforts in the first half of  2016 in the country.

MEPs also take note that five EU member states have not yet recognised Kosovo, adding that if all EU member states were to do so, this would increase the EU’s credibility in its external policy and help to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The resolution on Kosovo was passed by 40 votes to 12, with 5 abstentions.

Brusssels-Belgrade-Pristina

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Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has invited Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić  and Prime Minister Isa Mustafa to Brussels for another round of the High Level Dialogue for normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina on Wednesday, 1 February 2017.

During previous meeting on 24 January both sides agreed to leave the tensions behind and to focus on the work ahead within the EU-facilitated Dialogue.

The High Representative t is looking forward to the continuation of the discussions, on outstanding issues and on the state of play of implementation of past agreements as well as on the way forward in the Dialogue. Progress on the EU path is linked for both, Serbia and Kosovo, with progress in the Dialogue. (Photo: illustration Pristina)

Overheat in Kosovo

Serbia Kosovo

Aleksandar Mitic, OPINION

A new graffiti banner appeared on the stands of the football stadium of Sparta Prague in the Czech capital, media reported on January 24. It reads “Kosovo is Serbia”, and is a reference to the long-held views by the Sparta fans, but also fans at dozens of stadiums around Europe – from Warsaw and Athens to Paris and Madrid – that Kosovo is a province of Serbia and that unilateral Albanian separatism should not be rewarded.

The same phrase “Kosovo is Serbia”, painted on a train rallying Belgrade to Kosovska Mitrovica North – the only urban enclave in Kosovo from where Serbs had not been expelled since the war in 1999 – obtained not only extreme media attention but triggered a surprisingly high political attention worldwide. While Belgrade claimed the passenger train, on its promotional trip, was merely an expression of Serbia’s support to its integrity and to the suffering Kosovo Serbs, the Kosovo Albanians saw it as a provocation and sent dozens of armed vehicles to block its entry into what they consider as their own territory. Belgrade averted a conflict by stopping the train in central Serbia, but the political aftermath proved almost as tense.

Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic reacted by warning that any future attacks against Kosovo Serbs would be met by an armed response from Serbia, while Kosovo Albanian president Hashim Thaci warned that Serbia was looking at a “Crimea scenario” to take back Kosovo, and that Albanians were infuriated by the “painted” signs of Serbia’s claim to the province.

While the rhetoric was harsher than usual, it showed, however, a continuity of both sides’ policy on the Kosovo issue.

Belgrade, on one hand, continues to argue that Kosovo’s secession – which began with the 1999 NATO bombings and continued with a unilateral secession – is a dramatic violation of international law and a precedent for conflicts worldwide. Yet, similar to the train case, its Kosovo policy sometimes appears as a “one step forward, two steps back” policy. Serbia is fighting Kosovo’s entry into the UN institutions, such as UNESCO, yet it is giving up parts of sovereignty in Kosovo by agreeing to the demands of the European Union – and Germany in particular – in exchange for the opening of new EU negotiation chapters. The expected delay of Serbia’s potential entry to the EU – now put at 2027 – however fuels criticisms among those who believe that Serbia should not hurry with giving up on its sovereignty prerogatives, in particular in Serb-populated northern Kosovo.

The Kosovo Albanians, on the other side, have a long-term strategy of putting pressure by arguing that if they do not get everything they wanted, there will be chaos in Kosovo. It is a strategy which paid off in 1999 – when they triggered the NATO bombings, in 2004 – when they succeeded in obtaining the beginning of status talks, in 2008 – when they received Western support for a unilateral secession from Serbia, in 2011-2012 – when they received support for “rounding up” what they now perceive as their own sovereignty over Kosovo. Every time a crisis appears in Kosovo, the same Albanian rhetoric and threats are employed – every time with success. Why change then the scarecrow tactics?

Yet, changes in the US administration and elections Europe-wide which are boosting opponents of Kosovo’s secession, are fueling worry in Pristina. An “independent Kosovo” – a pet project of the Clinton family – is perhaps not as secure anymore.

Aleksandar Mitic, president of the Center for Strategic Alternatives

Belgrade, 24/01/2017

Photo: Graffiti in Prague, couresy of Aleksandar Mitic

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