news 09 Jul 12

Thaci-Tadic Handshake Stirs Controversy

While some have strongly condemned a handshake between Kosovo prime minister and former Serbian president, others dubbed it a belated move.

Bojana Barlovac

Not for a long time has a handshake attracted so much attention in the Balkans as the one between Hashim Thaci, Kosovo Prime Minister, and Boris Tadic, former Serbian president and the leader of the Democrats.

The two men met at the Croatia Summit in Dubrovnik on Saturday. Meanwhile, for the fifth year in a row Serbian officials have refused to take part in the summit in protest over Thaci's participation.

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

Ivica Dacic, Serbia's PM-designate was the first to react by saying that Tadic led one policy as president and another as a leader of the opposition party.

"All parties should advocate the same policy whether they are in power or not,”  Dacic said recalling that it was the Democrats who proposed not to attend any meeting where Kosovo officials were present.

“This only gave legitimacy to Thaci because there is suspicion that he was involved in organ trafficking. Boris Tadic’s move is an absolute enigma to me,” Dacic added.

Tadic replied that the handshake was a polite gesture and had no historic significance.

"The act had a symbolic dimension,” Tadic told Serbian Prva TV on Sunday.

Tadic, who lost to Tomislav Nikolic in the presidential run-off in May, explained that he had been invited to the Croatia Summit by Croatia’s PM Zoran Milanovic and that it was important for Serbia to take part in international meetings where decisions are made.

“If somebody thinks that I should not take part in decision-making meetings, then they have a problem with logic. Our problem with Kosovo has limited our participation in the international forums,” he explained.

He has also noted that he would not have objected if someone from the opposition had taken part in a similar meeting during his presidency.

Meanwhile, some other Serbian opposition parties have welcomed the gesture but thought it should have come when Tadic and his Democrats were in power.

Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, believes that the handshake was a human, civilized and decent act and that any condemnation of the move is shameful.

Cedomir Jovanovic, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, said that any act which is calming tensions between Kosovo and Serbia is welcomed but that this one has come too late.

"This act would have had a much greater significance for the future of the Serbian-Albanian relations if it had occurred several years ago," Jovanovic said.

Thaci echoed his sentiment.

"This is a belated move and therefore I do not plan to have a meeting with him [Tadic]," Thaci told Al Jazeera Balkans.

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