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"It is not for Russia to object if Serbia decides to give Kosovo away”

Yelena Guskova. Photo from her personal social-network account

The process of settling the status of Kosovo, which recently received an unexpected turn after the murder of one of the leaders of Kosovo Serbs Oliver Ivanović, is entering the final phase. This, according to experts, became even more obvious after the interview of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić given to the Serbian state television channel RTS on January 14. In it, Vučić for the first time expressed concern that a decision on the Kosovo and Metohija issue cannot be made within the framework of the existing constitution of Serbia.

It is time for Serbia to resolve the Kosovo and Metohija issue the way the West demands it, says Yelena Guskova, head of the Center for the Study of the Modern Balkan Crisis of the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and member of the Senate of the Republika Srpska. In her opinion, all that we have seen so far, both the Brussels Treaty and the negotiations with Pristina, was a phase that preceded the most important decision.

"It seems to me that we will see a solution to this in 2018. Why do I think so? While until today the final goal of the talks on Kosovo and Metohija has been hidden from the Serbs, now the West says openly: you must grant independence to Kosovo and Metohija. But how can this be done so that the people understand it "correctly" and not rebel against the authorities? I think that the authorities comprehend that it is impossible that the word "independence" sounds in the final decision. Probably, Belgrade will do so," Yelena Guskova told EADaily.

In his interview, the Serbian president hinted at such a decision: first, it would be necessary to change the constitution, and then sign a treaty between Pristina and Belgrade on good-neighborly relations. And after that, it will be inevitable to give Kosovo a place in the UN, the expert explained.

Yelena Guskova drew attention to the interview of Aleksandar Vučić. He was unhappy to hear that he does not protect the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, and the accusation of Metropolitan Amfilohije, who signed an appeal against the secession of Kosovo, was such a hard blow to Aleksandar Vučić that almost made him cry, Guskova reminded citing the president of Serbia. "But as an argument for his active work in Kosovo and Metohija, he cites only one thing: over the years there have been no casualties among the Serbs. This argument is weak. I want to say that in reality the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are thrown at the mercy of fate," the expert said.

According to her, the Serbs still live behind barbed wire in some areas. They are not free. "If Aleksandar Vučić boasted that the Serbs were free, that they lived better, that they could go to Orthodox churches and cemeteries without being guarded, that their children were taught according to the Serbian programs, that they were free to farm, that Aleksandar Vučić himself could easily come to Kosovo and communicate with the Serbs, then we really could be talking about caring for the Serbs in Kosovo. For the meantime, we cannot talk about this," the Russian historian noted. In her opinion, Amfilohije is absolutely right that it is impossible to recognize independence of Kosovo, that the Kosovo Serbs need to be protected.

"In addition, the Serbs are still being killed in Kosovo. On January 16, the most popular politician of the region, Oliver Ivanović, was killed in Kosovska Mitrovica. He was in the way because he called on the Serbs in Kosovo to assert their rights. And his plan for settling the Kosovo issue was seriously different from that of Belgrade. And international organizations did not need a "rebellious leader," said Yelena Guskova.

Returning to the statements of Aleksandar Vučić, made during the interview to the Serbian channel, the expert noted that his words that he wants peace and all the others want wars is not an argument. "It is also possible to negotiate by ensuring that the Serbs in Kosovo feel the care of Serbia, that their lives are not threatened. This is what Oliver Ivanović called for. And now, if the Constitution of Serbia is amended, and Kosovo is given independence, Aleksandar Vučić will not be able to influence the situation of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija," said Guskova.

Responding to EADaily's request to comment on the statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow would support any mutually acceptable decision to be reached by Belgrade and Pristina, the expert recalled: Russia's position on the non-recognition of Kosovo's independence is today the main point in Russia's foreign policy in the Balkans.

"And so it will be until the Serbian leadership changes its decision. The territory of Kosovo and Metohija is the Serbian territory. Therefore, Russia now supports Belgrade in denying the possibility of independence of the province. But if Belgrade decides to give or sell this territory to Albanians, what is the point of Russia insisting on its position? It is natural for Moscow that Belgrade itself makes decisions on all issues of domestic and foreign policy. In the event of a change in Serbia's position, Russia will change its own, supporting any decision of Belgrade. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Russia has never imposed conditions on Belgrade as concerns its external or internal policy," said Yelena Guskova.

As she reminded, Serbia has very serious, close relations with the EU and NATO. Europeans and Americans are constantly putting ever new conditions for Belgrade. "And Russia has always been friendly towards Serbia. It's just that Belgrade should choose which kind of relations it prefers," said Guskova.

"I think that this year will be decisive in determining Serbia's foreign policy. If it completely fulfills all the conditions of Brussels and Washington, then it may be allowed to approach the EU. Accordingly, it will agree with the independence of Kosovo, introduce sanctions against Russia, fully support both the trade and foreign policy guidelines of the EU, and cooperate with NATO as much as possible. And the appeal over Kosovo, which was signed by thousands of people, is a normal phenomenon; it reflects the concern of the Serbian community about the fate of the Kosovo Serbs," summed up the head of the Center for the Study of the Modern Balkan Crisis of the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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