Nikolić: Priština interprets agreement as it likes

BELGRADE -- Serbia could lose an opportunity to get an EU talks date because Priština and some countries of the EU interpret the Brussels agreement as it suits them.
Tomislav Nikolić (Beta/AP, file)
Tomislav Nikolić (Beta/AP, file)
This is according to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić.
He told Radio and Television of Serbia on Wednesday the country had done everything to get a start date for the accession talks, but that the opportunity could be lost because of the Kosovo Albanians' insistence on interpreting the agreement between Belgrade and Priština their way.

“It is time for the people leading the EU to say what they want,” he noted.

“If Serbia has sent its top officials to the negotiations, it is also time for the EU to stop hiding behind its low ranking officials and say what it wants,” Nikolić pointed out, adding that Serbia had done everything having complete faith and desire to succeed.

The president stated the government and himself had to erase bad stereotypes about Serbia in the past year, but still managed to open doors no one had knocked on before.

“Serbia faces new challenges now, a new concept,” he said, adding he would support the government in implementing that concept.

“The focus in the past year was on Kosovo and the battle against corruption,” he said, stressing that the government should now turn to the economy.

“The government has not drained the people's patience yet,” the president said regarding economic issues.

Nikolić believes the announced investments in agriculture and energy will bring results but that the government should achieve more in the social field.

He called for harmony among Serbs and all the people of Serbia, emphasizing that it was the most important thing in the country and that he was certain Serbia would cope with the current difficult situation.

"I hope the EU will not stop us (in that) simply because the Albanians want a country. If it comes to that, we will have a lot of trouble, otherwise everything will be much easier," Nikolić concluded.

Nikolić stated that Serbs had to agree on the implementation of the agreement reached by Belgrade and Priština, adding that the process leading to Serbs from northern Kosovo becoming the citizens of a non-existent state (of Kosovo) had been stopped.

"We Serbs have to reach an agreement. I cannot imagine us making an agreement with Albanians and not making it with the Serbs in northern Kosovo, who have not been left in the lurch," Nikolić stressed.

The president explained that by accepting the Brussels deal the constant threat of intrusion and imposition of powers by (Albanian) Kosovo authorities in the Serb-majority north of the province had ceased to exist.

“All the institutions that the Serbs today have in northern Kosovo and that Albanians and the EU label as parallel, will become formally official once the Brussels agreement is implemented, and no one will ever again be able to touch them,” Nikolić pointed out.

He added that police in northern Kosovo, claimed to be illegal, would become official as well, stressing that the ethnic composition of the police would match the one of the population.

Nikolić also said that the intention had been to continue the talks on energy, telecommunications, and freedom of movement "until the Serbs become citizens of Kosovo and of a non-existent state."

"We stopped this and we now have an agreement which some Serbs, especially in northern Kosovo-Metohija, say is not good, but Albanians are not satisfied with it either," the president said, adding that this was why no agreement on the implementation of the deal was reached in Brussels on Wednesday.

"The talks were interrupted, because the Albanian plan to completely forget about the Brussels agreement was not accomplished," he pointed out, and explained that the Albanian party had asked for abolition of the so-called parallel institutions and creations of interim ones, without Serbs participating, all before the forming of a community of Serb municipalities in keeping with the agreement.

Commenting on the claims by critics of the agreement that the negotiations should have been postponed, Nikolić said Serbia could not wait and that the time for an agreement was right.

"Serbia was deceived, or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (after the NATO bombing of 1999), because it believed the conflict was frozen, that the situation remained as it had been in terms of international relations," he stated.

Nikolić explained he would be willing to wait for an opportunity for a better solution if the UN and EU followed Resolution 1244 and guaranteed to Serbia that the conflict would remain frozen.

“However, since the first high representative left, everything has been done for Kosovo to become independent and a member of international institutions,” he pointed out.

"We could not wait for the situation to change, because the Albanians would have attempted in the meantime to expand to northern Kosovo and no one would have been able to stop them," he said.

“The Belgrade team for the talks in Brussels suffered problems and blackmail, but they held out through all that and protected the national interest, but someone then shows up in Serbia and says they worked for the Albanians,” Nikolić remarked.

He stressed he would never recognize Kosovo, nor allow someone to recognize it, and that everything that was agreed during the talks with Priština was in line with the Constitution and could be part of a substantial autonomy for Kosovo.

According to the president, after the agreement on the normalization of relations with Pristina was initialed in Brussels on April 19, he wrote to all the countries that have not recognized Kosovo to explain what it was that Serbia accepted.

When asked if he would follow the decision by the Constitutional Court if it said the agreement was in violation of the Constitution, Nikolić stated he would. He explained he had asked the court and the parliament speaker to wait for an agreement with Priština that would result in a law on a substantial autonomy for Kosovo and then decide on whether the law was according to the Constitution.

Commenting on the calls for the people to vote on the agreement, Nikolić said he was not avoiding a referendum, but that it would be unpleasant to create a conflict between the Serbs in northern Kosovo and the other Serbs, because things would probably be interpreted as Serbia being unable to move forward unless they accepted what the government proposed.