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news 22 Mar 12

EU Urged to Save Crumbling Kosovo-Serbia Deal

As an EU-led deal on Kosovo's representation at regional meetings shows signs of complete collapse, a Serbian official says it's time for Brussels to help sort matters out.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

Oliver Ivanovic, State Secretary in the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo, has called on Brussels to rescue the EU-brokered deal on Kosovo's representation at regional meetings and prevent both sides from walking out from such meetings.

"There is no other solution than for [EU Mediator Robert] Cooper to say his version of how he understood the agreement because it is obvious that we [Belgrade] and Pristina interpret it differently," Ivanovic said.

The two sides appeared to agreed on a formula on Kosovo's participation at regional meetings in Brussels on February 24.

According to the deal Kosovo was to 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 UN 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 2008 independence did not contravene international law.

But 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.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for the EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, said that the agreement reached in Brussels was "very clear and was made public."

However, "in terms of its use in the meetings it is for the organisers to decide where to put the footnote," Kocijancic told Balkan Insight.

Belgrade Issues Instructions for Regional Fora

Serbia's government on Tuesday adopted instructions for its representatives taking part in regional meetings alongside Kosovo representatives.

State officials are to participate in those gatherings only if the name "Kosovo" is followed by an asterisk, while the same nameplate must also contain a footnote, the content of which is defined in the agreement on Kosovo's regional representation.

The footnote itself, the instructions said, must be "visible, legible, and written in English".

At the same time, Serbia's representatives are under an obligation to each time read aloud a statement about Kosovo's attendance being in line with the agreement reached between Belgrade and Pristina in Brussels, and note that Kosovo is an autonomous province that is a part of Serbia.

The government's instructions also specify that its representatives will not take part in any gatherings where representatives of Kosovo attempt to display their flag or any other insignia.

Representatives of Kosovo and Serbia have been walking out from regional meetings in the past few days over the way that Kosovo is represented.

When the Kosovo delegation has been presented only with an asterisk and no accompanying footnote, Serbian representatives have left. Kosovo officials have left whenever the footnote exists in full.

The latest dispute marred a Balkan governmental conference on gay rights in Budva, Montenegro, on Monday.

The Serbian delegation refused to participate after the organisers, along with a sign reading "Kosovo" and without a footnote, also displayed the Kosovo flag.

Serbia's representatives did the same at a meeting in Sarajevo organised by the Regional Cooperation Council last week.

On the same day, a delegation from Pristina left a Belgrade forum, entitled "Partnership for Change: Civil society and government institutions of the Western Balkans and Turkey," organised by the Serbian government.

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