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“It is time to speak of restoring Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo”

Washington and Brussels have been pressing Serbia over Kosovo status more and more openly recently. During his recent visit to Belgrade, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Hoyt Brian Yee bluntly demanded Serbian authorities to stop “sitting on two chairs” and choose one side (he actually meant the West) “no matter how hard it is.” In his words, what Russia, in fact, pursues is to see the Balkan States weak and isolated.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to Hoyt Brian Yee’s statement and blamed Washington for interfering into domestic affairs of Serbia by its demand making Belgrade to choose between cooperation with Russia and integration into EU. Lavrov compared Yee’s statement addressed to Serbia with similar statements some EU representatives made on Ukraine in 2004, prior to the first Maidan in Kiev. Then, EU demanded Ukraine to choose between Russia and Europe. In an interview with EADaily, Stevan Gajić, Ph.D. in Political Science, researcher at Belgrade-based Institute of European Studies, shares his views about why the Russian minister made such comparisons and what is behind the West’s pressure on Serbia.

Drawing parallels between the events in Ukraine and Serbia, one needs to focus on the moment when Serbian Progressive Party came to power, Gajić said. “Maidan happened here in 2012, when the people that came to power hiding behind false patriotism were ready to cooperate with the West more than the former liberal president Boris Tadić did.” Since the moment when Progressive Party came to power, Serbia began quickly abandoning its interests in Kosovo one after another,” the expert said. He recalled that after making the Brussels Agreement that gave nothing to Serbia, the Serbian courts were integrated into the justice system of the so-called Kosovo. “Party of Serbs that has enlisted the support of the government in Kosovo – “Serbian List” – is nothing but Serbian Progressive Party in Kosovo. It has made a coalition with Ramush Haradinaj, a man from the list of war criminals. Recently, Serbian courts have sworn an oath of loyalty to Hashim Thaçi (“president” of separatist Kosovo, who was earlier suspected of war crimes and trafficking in human organs – EADaily’s note),” Gajić said.

He assessed the international pressure on Serbia as permanent and strong.

“At present, the openly anti-Serbian line - Hoyt Brian Yee is also a part of it – is in a hurry. They see that things are changing rapidly and in our favor. Suriname is the first but not last country to recall recognition Kosovo. It is a tectonic shift for us,” the Serbian expert said.

In his words, the world community began realizing the situation Serbia has found itself in. “They have finally taken our argument that sovereignty is a basis of the International Law and that the Yugoslavia bombing and the Kosovo recognition by most Western countries that follow it in 2008 are events that have an effect of an explosive,” Stevan Gajić said. He recalled that about a month ago, prior to the referendum in Kurdistan, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Kosovo is not a state. “He said then that Kurds do not understand what they do,” Gajić said. Later, Catalonia held a referendum and tried to get independence from Spain. Apparently, that attempt was successfully prevented. “International community is gradually realizing that state sovereignty and the existing world order are not just ideas that can be thrown under the bus. Therefore, things are changing in our favor,” the Serbian expert said.

In this light, it is not clear why President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic says that pressure on Serbia will grow, Gajić said. This is especially unclear amid what he calls “internal dialogue on Kosovo” trying to share the responsibility for possible recognition of its independence, Gajić elaborated.

“Of course, I am not speaking about formal recognition. What they have announced for March 2018, can be presented in the form of a comprehensive agreement that will pave the way to UN for the Kosovo Separatists. This will be de-facto recognition of independence,” he said.

Stevan Gajić is sure that the situation quickly changing in favor of Serbia, and the organizations Hoyt Yee represents are in a hurry and press Vucic. “I do not know, but there should be a reason why Aleksandar Vucic agrees to cooperate and speaks of pressure that will grow, while it is falling, in fact,” Gajić asks rhetorically.

The expert highlights the evident difference between the views of Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and President Aleksandar Vucic. “Dacic is strongly protecting the state sovereignty now. He said Suriname’s decision changes the situation dramatically. Supposing, I agree with him. We can even expect something of the kind from Austria too. If the openly pro-Serbian Party of Heinz-Christian Strache, for which all Austrian Serbs voted, makes a coalition of Sebastian Kurz, there will be a chance to recall recognition of Kosovo,” he said. Besides, Gajić said, Turkey’s attitude to Kosovo has change as well. The relations of Erdogan and the Kosovo elite are not as good as before. After the Catalan referendum, Spain is more than ever sure that it will not recognize Kosovo, the expert said.

“At the same time, we are witnessing a strange attitude and hasty steps by Western organizations that lobbied for collapse of Serbia. We can see similar hasty steps by the Serbian president who has launched that ‘internal dialogue’ for some unknown reasons and speaks of concessions,” Gajić said. “I think no more concessions are possible, because Serbia has given more than it could. It is time to speak of restoring Serbia’s sovereignty over territory of Kosovo i.e. the ways of Kosovo’s peaceful reintegration into the Constitutional order of Serbia,” the expert said.

“I do not see any good intentions in the idea of ‘internal dialogue’,” the Serbian political analyst said. “If they really sought to exchange views, they should have done it before the country’s leadership was involved into the adventure called ‘Brussels Agreement’. The Serbian people learned from the Albanian press about new and new moments of Serbian capitulation in Kosovo – transfer of telecommunications, integration into the customs and justice systems of the separatist ‘Republic of Kosovo,’ transfer of cadaster, dissolution of the Serbian police. All these we learned from Albanian media, since pro-governmental Serbian media showed everything in bright colors and presented heavy defeats as victories.”

According to Gajić, Vucic-declared “internal dialogue” is just an effort to involve the people into the process of adopting “a very doubtful decision.” Meantime, time works for Serbia and the country has no reason to hurry, he said.

“Vucic is a master of performance. It is not surprising that some moments are being dramatized constantly,” he said.

In this light, he recalled that a drone with Albanian flag flew over the football pitch in Belgrade during Serbia vs. Albania match. “Quite dramatic statements were made then promising that all those guilty will be detained and punished. Eventually, nothing happened. I think the current statements are addressed to Aleksandar Vucic’s voters. Paradoxical as it may sound, most of his voters are patriots who earlier voted for the Serbian radical party,” the expert said. He thinks the media coverage of the situation around Hoyt Brian Yee’s statements were addressed to that very audience.

“However, politics cannot be assessed with words, only with actions. Let’s wait and see the outcome. It will be good if Serbia takes a firmer stance, which one can expect judging from Ivica Dacic’s words. If the statements in the presence of Yee are not followed by respective actions, and Serbia keeps cooperating with the West and, God forbid, paves the way to UN for the Alban separatists, these words are worth nothing, in fact,” Stevan Gajić said for conclusion.

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