BELGRADE — The demand for Serbia to abandon its institutions in Serb areas of Kosovo, described as “parallel”, is not acceptable, Serbian President Boris Tadić says.
The demand was heard from visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week, and was made in the context of Serbia’s further EU integration.
In the first part of an interview given to Tanjug news agency on Thursday in Belgrade – with the second part due to be published on Friday – Tadić said that “there is a possibility” that the country may not be granted the status of candidate for EU membership this year, and that the same applied when it came to determining the start of accession negotiations.
But he noted that “Serbia cannot accept the demand to abolish its institutions in the north of Kosovo and Metohija”.
“Serbia will not abandon its people in Kosovo and Metohija. Serbia will also not give up on EU integrations. If the Serbian or European political public demands that Serbia should chose one, my answer will be that Serbia will not give up on any of its legitimate interests,” said Tadić.
The president said he was twice given the mandate to pursue this policy from the citizens who took part in elections.
Tadić also said he was convinced the country will be able to secure both of its strategic interests: to care about its legitimate interests in Kosovo and Metohija, and to become an EU member.
“If it is not possible today, it will be possible tomorrow. If it is not possible to accept the argument put forward by Serbia today, I am convinced that after a democratic and all-inclusive debate, Serbia’s argument might be accepted as early as next year,” Tadić said.
“Whether Serbia will get the candidate status and a date for negotiations only partly depends on itself. I am convinced that Serbia will fulfill every requirement that is consistent with Copenhagen criteria, and we will see whether the EU will fulfill its part – it depends on the EU,” Tadić said.
Serbia, as he pointed out, continues its policy of European integration and no one can deprive it of the right to do so.
Tadić noted that one condition for Serbia to become a candidate set out by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her recent visit to Belgrade – and that is to abolish the so-called parallel institutions in northern Kosovo – is not acceptable to Serbia for several reasons, and that this was explained to Merkel during the meeting.
The first reason is that these institutions are not parallel, but the only ones in northern Kosovo and Metohija, and because their removal would create a political and existential vacuum in the north of the province, Tadić said.
The second is that they are legitimate institutions whose representatives were elected democratically, he said.
The third reason is that these institutions are not just political, but also institutions in the health, education and utilities sectors, which are vital for the existence of every person in the north of Kosovo and Metohija, Tadić said.
Also, the argument that institutions in the north of the province should be abolished because crime is rife in that part of Kosovo and Metohija is unfounded, because crime in the rest of Kosovo is much more widespread, noted the president.
“Consequently, the claim that Serbia should participate in the abolition of national institutions such as, for example, hospitals and schools, is simply unnatural and Serbia cannot accept such requirement,” Tadić said.
The Serbian president underlined that, despite the “difficult message” delivered by Merkel, the talks with her were “open and fair”.
“The agreement is to continue to talk. The result of these talks is not closing but opening doors,” asserted Tadić, and added that the views presented were similar in part, but that there were differences, especially when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija.
According to Tadić, the arguments coming from Germany, which is economically the most powerful state of Europe, must be carefully analyzed, but no one can ask Serbia to make unnatural political moves and thus in effect help create an independent state out of Kosovo.
“We need to continue the dialogue and that is the most important conclusion of the talks,” Tadić concluded.