Monday, 13 May 2013. PDF Print E-mail
We’ll Never Recognize Kosovo
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Ivan MrkicSerbia is knocking on the door of the European Community.

"The recently signed agreement with Kosovo, reached with the facilitation of the EC is good and it is not necessary to amend it", said Ivan Mrkic, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, during his visit to Helsinki.

The path to be traversed by Serbia on its way to opening the accession negotiations with the EU was not without obstacles and there is yet a long way to go before the ultimate goal is reached. At the end of April this year, the European Community gave a green light for the commencement of the negotiations, but Serbs are still reticent.

Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivan Mrkic receives us in his hotel lobby in Helsinki and gently leans from his armchair towards us, saying, almost in a whispering voice, that the delicacy of the subject that we have met to discuss doesn't allow us to speak in a loud voice.

"Nothing is yet decided. The Commission of the European Community has not yet given us the exact date for the opening of the negotiations. Thus, we are waiting. The Commission's plan is, says Mrkic, to make a final decision in early June and determine a final date for the start of the negotiations."

Agreement with Kosovo is good

Of all former Yugoslav republics, only Slovenia has become an EU Member State for the past years, whereas Croatia, judging by all indications, is about to become a member in early July. In comparison with all its neighbours, Serbia is running late.

The main reason for and principal obstacle to its EU membership was, initially, the request for apprehending war criminals Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, in the first place. Later on, the EU Commission expanded the list with the request for normalization of relations between Serbia and Pristina, and with leaders of separated Kosovo, which was easier said than done in practice. At one point it even seemed that EC High Representative Catherine Ashton gave up the fight. After having hosted ten rounds of discussions between Kosovo and Serbian Prime Ministers, she said that she would no longer organize talks and that it was up to the Prime Ministers of both countries to take things into their own hands. According to the terms of the agreement that was eventually reached, Pristina de facto has administrative jurisdiction over Kosovo, while Serbs in Serb-populated areas of Kosovo receive police and legislative powers.

Mrkic emphasized that this was but one in a series of agreements to follow; however, this agreement is the one with which Serbs may agree in principle.

"The agreement is all right and we are currently at the stage of its implementation. What remains to be done is to persuade Kosovo Serbs that this solution is good for them as well, and that normal life will be possible under the Pristina administration."

Mrkic does not want to make hypothetic assumptions as to whether the agreement would be amended or whether Serbia would look upon it as a permanent solution.

"What will remain permanent is our position that Kosovo, as an independent country, will not be recognized by us. No one has asked us to do so nor are we bound to do it. Imagine what it would be like if a minority group in Finland suddenly broke away with the aim of creating a new state!"

Legislation is lagging behind

On the other hand, it is not difficult to assume that many people in Kosovo do not view the reached compromise as a lasting solution. On the contrary, the request for an independent state has not subsided and Pristina has a lot of support in that respect. Out of the 27 EU Member States, 22 have so far recognized Kosovo's sovereignty, Finland included. Mrkic sees no problem with that.

There is no consensus in the European Union on this issue nor is there a unanimous call for Kosovo to be recognized.

Yesterday, Ivan Mrkic met with his Finnish colleague Erki Tuomioja, when they primarily discussed bilateral relations between the two countries. In Mrkic's words, relations between Serbia and Finland are excellent.

"In one period, we didn't see eye to eye over the issue of Kosovo, but that is now behind us."

As regards other obstacles standing in Serbia's way towards its EU membership, Mrkic's reply was cautious.

"It's difficult to say, because requirements have not been precise. In any case, all EU Member States have given positive signals. We have done a lot and have covered a long way. However, it goes without saying that all is not yet perfect. It is necessary to continue to improve our work in some segments.

Which segments?

"In the legislation area, in the first place."

by Jane Vas

Bio information contained in the footnote of the article.

About Ivan Mrkic
- Serbian Foreign Minister since July 2012;
- Born on 30 May 1953, in Belgrade, then the capital of Yugoslavia and now the capital of Serbia;
- Married to Ivona and has sons Mirko and Marko;
- Formally, does not belong to any political party, but is in contact with the right-wing conservative Serbian Progress Party (SNS) which has been in power since last summer. SNS is more affirmative with regard to the EU than its coalition partner, SPS;
- Graduated in law at Belgrade University. Speaks French and English; served as a diplomat in Brussels and at the United Nations, and as Serbian Ambassador to Japan;
- Chief of Cabinet in the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and held several positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Yugoslavia and Serbia.

In Mrkic's opinion, the economic crisis threatening primarily to impair cooperation among the Eurozone countries has not shaken very much the confidence of Serbs in the European Union.