I want guarantees for Serbs in Kosovo, president says

LONDON -- Serbian President Boris Tadić reaffirmed in London that Belgrade wanted a functional solution to the Kosovo problem as soon as possible.

Boris Tadić and David Cameron are seen during the meeting in  London (Tanjug)
Boris Tadić and David Cameron are seen during the meeting in London (Tanjug)

“In order to achieve this, I want guarantees for the functioning of the Serb community in Kosovo,” he said late Wednesday in a lecture at the London Institute for Strategic Studies.

“If there is a will, and there is on the Serbian side, solutions can be found,” he stressed.

“We want integration of the entire region into the EU, and, of course, we want Kosovo to take part in regional forums,” the Serbian president pointed out.

He explained he advocated a fair and equitable solution when it comes to Kosovo.

Tadić said he had analyzed various solutions reached in similar situations and he was particularly interested in the agreement between the Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, as well as the practical solutions which followed from the document.

“For me, there are three principles which I drew from these solutions and which I would try to implement in our case. The first is that a substantive, sustainable and final solution can only be reached when two sides talk openly, directly and with the desire to find a common language,” the president explained.

In this context, he reminded that Serbia and other countries found Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence unacceptable.

“The second principle is connected to the fact people in our region are fated for EU accession. In doing this, we can and need to be creative, knowing that in the EU, borders are becoming less important than the quality of life of individual people and the communities they live in. I am talking about rights and prerogatives,” Tadić noted.

Solutions, he said talking about the third principle, should always take into account the fears and fate of the minority population.

“In this case, I am talking about the fears and fate of the Serbs in Kosovo,” said the Serbian president, pointing out these principles formed a foundation for a productive discussion.

Tadić also said that Serbia led by democrats showed readiness to find solutions for the most difficult problems inherited from the era of Slobodan Milošević.

“This would however be easier if Serbia had already launched membership talks with the EU,” he underlined.

As he put it, the citizens of Serbia will assess whether the ruling coalition has done enough to stay in power at the coming elections in a few months.

“I believe that the citizens will do that as this is the coalition which fought for a new democratic foundation of our country and which has always struggled for Europe as a choice. I am certain that the citizens have trust that we will do what is in the best interest of our country,” the president said.

Speaking about the region, he said that Serbia had a vital, strategic role and that it should be the initiator of economic development and political stability in the region.

“Highways, communication networks, energy supply routes - all this is passing through Serbia. Our economic welfare affects many people outside Serbia. Such a role is responsibility that I take quite seriously,” Tadić underscored.

He recalled that Serbia was trying to develop new trust with its neighbors, and that it has arrested the two remaining Hague Tribunal indictees, which was its moral obligation and also a crucial move in establishing of trust.

“When it comes to regional cooperation in different spheres, genuine progress has been made,” Tadić noted, adding that the political cooperation between Serbia and Croatia in the last three years was a very important stabilizing factor for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Our region - the Western Balkans - cannot wait for global circumstances to improve or foreign powers to resolve our problems. We have to move ahead together in order to build our future and security,” he explained.

"No parallel structures in Kosovo"

Tadić also stated on Wednesday in London that there were no parallel structures in Kosovo.

He pointed out that only legitimately elected local institutions existed in Kosovo and rejected claims that Serbia was financing criminal structures in the province.

“As a president, I do not always agree with their decisions, and they are often against my policy, but I respect them. They are politicians, not criminals, and they were legally elected,” he stated.

When it comes to criminal structures, the Serbian president said they existed everywhere, not only in the north, but also south to the Ibar River, and added the structures were cooperating closely.

He asked why the international forces in Kosovo were not arresting criminals, both Serb and Albanian, and recalled that according to the Kumanovo Agreement Serbia was not allowed to fight against the criminals and arrest them.

“Just let us, and we will arrest them,” Tadić underlined.

When a Kosovo Albanian from diplomat made a remark that Serbia should stop financing criminals, the president reacted strongly and said that Serbia was not financing any of them.

“This is not true, we fight against crime and will continue doing that. We will arrest all criminals, regardless of whether they are Serbs, Croats or Albanians. However, it would be against the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia not to finance our local institutions,” Tadić stressed.

When asked about partition of Kosovo, he said that this was an attractive solution, but yet again a model which could not function well.

“The citizens of Serbia will not accept that Kosovo is not part of Serbia. Common citizens cannot be talked into accepting this, and this is a political reality,” Tadić explained, adding that there were two realities in Kosovo - a Serbian and an Albanian one and that both sides should be taken into consideration when searching for a solution.

“We have to resolve this issue in the capacity of politicians, and the division of Kosovo is not a model which would function well,” he noted.

Asked what if the EU did not want to admit Serbia unless it recognizes Kosovo, Tadić shortly responded that in that case, the EU would make a mistake.
Answering questions about the regional cooperation and events in the 90s, the Serbian president said that he had apologized to all, bearing in mind the large number of victims of two world wars and the latest war conflicts, and also in order to protect the dignity of the Serbian people.

“The relations with Croatia have never been better in the last 20 years, and this is our common achievement,” he said, adding that he is in favor of the debalkanization of the Balkans, that is of its Scandinavization.

“Following my visit to the Olympic Park, an idea occurred to me that the region could jointly organize Olympic Games in future. We are good organizers, and the point is that we should make something together,” Tadić concluded.