news 04 Jul 12

Serbia Fears For Kosovo Serbs After ISG Quits

As Kosovo readies for full independence in September, Belgrade officials express concerns for the implications on this on the Kosovo Serb community.

Bojana Barlovac

Borislav Stefanovic, Serbia's outgoing negotiator in talks with Kosovo, said the decision of the International Steering Group for Kosovo, ISG, to terminate the period of so-called "supervised independence" for Kosovo posed certain dangers for Kosovo Serbs.

"The decision is dangerous because everyone knows that the so-called independent Kosovo is neither a defined nor a democratic decriminalized formation," he said.

"In a certain way this gives Pristina additional freedom to make unilateral moves, which could be very dangerous," Stefanovic noted.

On Monday, the ISG, which has overseen the progress of the new country, gave the green light for Kosovo to proceed to full, i.e. unsupervised, independence in September.

Kosovo declared its independence in 2008 but Serbia still perceives it as its southern province, and Kosovo's northern sliver is controlled by Serbs loyal to Belgrade.

Pieter Feith, the International Civilian Representative, expressed his belief that the northern Kosovo issue can yet be resolved without violence or partition.

"The northern Kosovo issue would be resolved on grounds of three principles, comprising the search for a non-violent political solution, no partition, so that northern Kosovo would still remain within Kosovo, and no possibility of the matter becoming a frozen issue," Feith said in Vienna on Monday.

Oliver Ivanovic, the outgoing state secretary in the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo, meanwhile also believes that the termination of supervised independence may cause security problems for the Serbian community in Kosovo.

He predicted that the change will result in "additional pressure on Serbs".

He said that he expected more commitment in future on the part of the EU mission, EULEX, and the NATO mission, KFOR, in terms of providing security for Serbs in Kosovo, although he suspects it will be enough to compensate for the departure of the International Civilian Office.

Kosovo Serbs say they are indifferent to the decision as they have never accepted Kosovo's supervised independence, or the ISG, according to Krstimir Pantic, mayor of the Serb part of the divided city of Mitrovica.

Northern Kosovo Serbs have also continued blocking major roads in the north to again send a message that they "do not wish to be integrated into Kosovo's institutions".

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