News 26 Apr 13

Serbia Offers Referendum on EU Kosovo Deal

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian deputy prime minister, said the government will meet the request of Serbs from Kosovo and call a referendum on the Belgrade-Pristina deal.

Gordana Andric

After meeting Kosovo Serb leaders on Thursday, Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, said the Serbian government was ready to call a referendum on the Belgrade-Pristina deal reached in Brussels on April 19.

However, he said that Serbs in northern Kosovo will have to guarantee that they will accept the referendum decision, whatever it may be.

“That means that in case the agreement is accepted [in a referendum], Serbs from Kosovo must accept to take part in its implementation,” Vucic said on April 25.

Vucic will continue talks with representatives of Kosovo Serbs on Tuesday, April 30.

“If they tell us on Tuesday that they will accept the results of the referendum, we will schedule a referendum within 15 days," said Vucic.

Kosovo Serb leaders have condemned the agreement on normalising relations with Pristina, and stated that they will not take part in its implementation.

After the meeting, Slavisa Ristic, president of Zubin Potok municipality in northern Kosovo, said he was sure that Serbian government tried to reach the best deal for Serbs, but that the agreement still excluded Kosovo Serbs from Serbia.

Ristic said the rights that the agreement offered Kosovo Serbs are less important than the fact that those rights would be provided by Kosovo, not by Serbian laws.

“We were not fighting for more rights but for Kosovo as a part of Serbia,” Ristic said.

“We have no intention to enter into conflict with the government, but we also don’t want someone changing our citizenship by force. That's why we insist on a referendum,” Ristic said.

Kosovo and Serbia adopted a 15-point draft agreement on normalising relations, allowing both sides to advance their integration into the European Union, on April 19 in Brussels.

The draft agreement mainly concerns the future of the Serbian community in Kosovo.

The deal envisions that the local Serbian community will choose its own police commanders, while the composition of the police generally will reflect the ethnic structure on the ground. The draft also proposes more judges coming from the Serbian minority.

An Association of Serbian Municipalities with broad powers will include the four Serb-run northern municipalities of North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok.

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, northern Kosovo has been beyond the Pristina government’s control, while Serbia has continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

The Serbian parliament is to debate a government report on the Belgrade-Pristina talks on April 26. The report includes the terms of the EU-led agreement proposal and an implementation plan.

Almost all parliamentary groups have said they will support the agreement, except for the Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS.


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