PRISTINA / BELGRADE – Following the alleged non-paper on changes of the borders in the Balkans, which caused much controversy in the region, Kosovo daily Koha published another document on solving the Serbia-Kosovo dispute, which the daily claimed was a joint initiative of Germany and France, but which was denied by the two countries’ Embassies to Kosovo. The alleged document is much more in line with the aim of a “comprehensive normalisation of relations” envisaged in the EU’s General Framework for negotiations with Serbia.
According to Koha, the document says that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti will conduct talks to finalize the agreement to normalise relations and should complete the process by the end of February 2022, N1 reports. A meeting in Paris in June 2021 is also envisaged.
The document says that the European Union will continue to facilitate the process leading to a legally binding agreement to resolve all open questions and achieve progress on the path to Europe. Both sides would have to amend their constitutions to ensure the implementation of the agreement, with Serbia agreeing not to oppose Kosovo’s request for membership in international organizations and both sides recognizing each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and exchanging Permanent Missions.
The two sides should also ensure the implementation of the Community of Serb Municipalities and reach an agreement on establishing the “Autonomous District of North Kosovo” as a separate administrative unit that would have regional legislative control on the economy, finances, infrastructure, culture, education, health care, social security, the judiciary, police, urban development and European cooperation in line with the constitution of Kosovo. The autonomous district would include the majority-Serb municipalities of Zvečan, Leposavić, Mitrovica North and Zubin Potok.
The proposed district would have a Governor representing the Government of Kosovo, an elected Assembly and an Executive Council that would be a joint organ of the Governments of Kosovo and Serbia, Autonomous District and the EU.
The document also calls for special status for the Serbian Orthodox Church allowing it to operate unobstructed, “as a self-governing part of Kosovo’s political and constitutional system” headed by the Patriarch whose seat is in the Patriarchate of Peć.
German and French Embassies to Kosovo deny that their countries are the source
Koha wrote late on Monday that the document was a joint initiative by official Paris and Berlin but could not confirm its authenticity. Unnamed diplomats quoted by the daily allegedly confirmed that parts of the non-paper were in line with what the dialogue was expected to focus on, which was also underlined in a Tweet by Koha editor in chief Agon Bajrami.
However, German Ambassador to Kosovo Jörn Rohde denied later on Tuesday that the document is a German-French initative, calling the “so called German-French non paper” published by Koha Ditore “fake news”.
He tweeted that a paper could exist but had nothing to do with either Berlin or Paris, adding Germany fully supported the Belgarde – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations led by the European Union and Miroslav Lajčák, as German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said in Pristina last week.
The so called “German-French non paper” published by Koha Ditore is fake news! There might be a paper but it’s for sure not a German-French one. Our full support is for the EU-led dialogue led by EUSR @MiroslavLajcak as German FM Maas again underlined last Thursday in Pristina
— Ambassador Jörn Rohde (@GermanAmbKOS) April 27, 2021
French Embassy in Kosovo also denied that France is involved.
The French Embassy in a statement posted on Twitter said that France and Germany are not source of the “non-paper” and the two countries support Kosovo-Serbia dialogue facilitated by the European Union, Gazeta Express reported.
La France et l’Allemagne ne sont pas à l’origine du prétendu non-papier franco-allemand publié aujourd’hui par Koha Ditore. Nous soutenons pleinement la médiation de l’UE et saluons les efforts entrepris en ce sens par le Représentant spécial chargé du dialogue Bg-Pr, M. Lajcak. pic.twitter.com/pDFi8McrZz
— France au Kosovo (@FranceauKosovo) April 27, 2021
“France and Germany are not the source of the so-called France-Germany non-paper published today in Koha Ditore. We fully support facilitation of the European Union, and welcome the efforts of the EU Special Representative on Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak,” the French Embassy said in a statement.
Vučić: Recognition of Kosovo’s independence unacceptable, I suspect one woman to be the author
President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić stated today that this non-paper has given him much more worries than the previous one, Radio Television of Vojvodina reported.
He said that everything will be analyzed – political motives and messages to both sides, and he notes that the paper was written by someone who was “fantastically knowledgeable and that there are (only) 50 people in the world who could do that”.
“I know that, I know all those people, I suspect one person, a smart woman, everything that was written no one else could have composed or made”, Vučić pointed out.
“Recognition of independence is unacceptable,” he said, adding that the non-paper offers 90% of “less important things” to Serbia, but the most important one goes to Kosovo.
Washington: Speculation about changing borders fosters instability
Reacting to the first non-paper, attributed to the Prime Minister of Slovenia Janez Janša (which he denied), US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Monday’s statement that “recent unwarranted speculation about changing borders in the Balkans along ethnic lines risks fostering instability in the region and evokes memories of past tensions”.
He did not elaborate and, unlike European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, stopped short of saying explicitly that Washington found the idea unacceptable, Euractiv reports.
Instead, Price stressed that the US remains committed to supporting the six Western Balkans countries on their path toward European integration and membership in key European and Atlantic institutions and said the region’s future “must be based on good governance, the rule of law, a multiethnic democracy and respect for human rights and basic freedoms”.
“We are engaged to help the countries of the Western Balkans to further their economic partnerships, to achieve climatic objectives, to resist energy manipulations by Russia by developing a various system of clean energy resources and to fight corruption and organized crime,” Price said.
“We also want to help the region toward economic growth, all the while protecting its infrastructure and industries from China’s wrong-doing practices,” he said, adding that Washington continues “to support the opening of EU accession negotiations” with Albania and North Macedonia in June.