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News 15 Mar 12

Kosovars Storm Out of Regional Forum in Serbia

In a setback to the Brussels deal agreed between the two sides, representatives from Kosovo have left a regional forum in Serbia, accusing their hosts of failing to honour the agreement on Kosovo's representation at such meetings

Fatmir Aliu, Gordana Andric
BIRN
Pristina, Belgrade

The delegation from Pristina left the forum, entitled "Partnership for Change: Civil society and government institutions of the Western Balkans and Turkey," organised by the Serbian government, on the day it opened on Thursday.

The Kosovo government issued a statement saying that as the organiser of the meeting, Serbia “failed to implement points 2 and point 4 of the agreement for the representation of Kosovo in regional forums”.

Serbian delegation left Sarajevo conference

At the same time as Kosovo representatives left the Belgrade conference, the Serbian delegation walked out of a meeting in Sarajevo organised by the Regional Cooperation Council. 

The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Blic newspaper that Serbian representatives left the Sarajevo conference because Kosovo delegation was presented only with an asterisk, and no accompanying footnote.

According to the ministry, the omission of the footnote is not in line with the agreement reached in Brussels.

The ministry stated that Serbian representatives followed the instructions of the Serbian government on how to behave at meetings attended by the delegation of Kosovo.

The meeting in Sarajevo is the first meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council Board in 2012. The Council is an international body whose aim is to promote mutual cooperation between the countries of South East Europe and the international community.

Point two writes that "Kosovo*" is the only label to be used to denote the country in regional meetings, while point four writes says such a designation accords with UN Resolution 1244 and the opinion of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, concerning Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence.

“The representation of the Republic of Kosovo at this conference was impossible and the representatives of the Republic of Kosovo left the mentioned conference,” the government statement said.

The conference is closed to the public, but Balkan Insight has learned that the Kosovo delegation quit because they were not represented only with an asterisk beside the word Kosovo but also with the full text of the footnote concerning UN Resolution 1244 and the ICJ ruling.

Belgrade and Pristina agreed a formula on Kosovo's participation at regional meetings in Brussels on February 24.

According to the deal Kosovo will be represented simply under the name of "Kosovo*" but also with a footnote referring both to UN Resolution 1244 and the opinion of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, on Kosovo's declaration of independence.

The 1999 resolution empowered the UN to take control of the former Serbian province without prejudicing Serbia's claim to the territory. The ICJ ruling said Kosovo's independence did not contravene international law.

One problem is that the Brussels deal did not specify whether there should be only "Kosovo plus an asterisk" in front of the speaker or speakers from Kosovo, or the full text of the explanatory footnote at such occasions.

“It would be more practical for the footnote to be written in the agenda or somewhere else, as it is quite long... but this was not specified in the agreement,” a Balkan Insight source in Brussels said.

The breakdown of the meeting comes as a disappointment as this was the first time that Serbia had hosted a representative of Kosovo since the two sides agreed on the formula in Brussels.

The two sides have, however, already sat together in regional meetings elsewhere. On March 7, representatives of Serbia and Kosovo took part in an international gathering in Danilovgrad, in Montenegro.

At the Montenegrin meeting, the label in front of Kosovo representative Ryve Prekorogja contained her name above the word "Kosovo", plus the asterisk.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. But Serbia does not recognise the new country and Belgrade has since refused to participate in conferences where Kosovo is represented as an independent country with its own state symbols.

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