4 aprila, 2020
I’m fighting for Serbia and our people Vesti
By signing the agreement with Pristina on 19th April we strengthened our position, in an attempt to minimise the negative consequences and damage that would suffer in the event of a failure to sign. Because of Serbia and its future, nobody has the right to hide anymore.
“A new attempt to hide would end in exodus, new victims, loss and defeat. Kosovo would continue without any judgement or responsibility for its journey towards Europe and Serbia would again be plunged into a deep Balkan hole of despair, misfortune, hunger”
What has troubled Serbia for decades – the issue of Kosovo – seems closer to its epilogue these days. The Government of Serbia, headed by its prime minister and first deputy prime minister, took an important step forward when it initialled the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. Discussing with KGI whether he feels any remorse because of that or is proud of what he has done is Serbian prime minister and leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, Ivica Dačić.
– Initialling the Brussels agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on 19th April completely changed the picture of Serbia, creating a new and different political climate in the international community.
What does reaching an agreement mean for Serbia?
– We have strengthened our position, trying to minimise the negative consequences and damage that would have been suffered in the event of failure to sign this agreement. Because of Serbia and its future, nobody has the right to hide. A new attempt to hide would end in exodus, new victims, loss and defeat. Kosovo would continue without any judgement or responsibility toward Europe and Serbia would again be plunged into a deep Balkan hole of despair, accident, hunger…
Are you saying that Serbia had no choice?
– This government has not conducted negotiations from the beginning. Our positions in 1995, 1999 and even 2005 were much better than in the recent negotiations. We started from a framework that was extremely unfavourable for Serbia. State leadership has tried to overcome this situation and make a bypass that would allow temporary solution thanks to which Serbia would stay in the game.
Are you afraid that you will be recorded in history as a traitor or do you believe that the exact opposite will occur and you’ll be a winner that opened the way for Serbia to Europe after decades of decay?
– There will always be those who will believe in a heavenly Serbia and not an earthly one. There will always be those for whom I will be a traitor. I am confident and I know that I’ve done good for Serbia and our people. I told the opponents of the agreement that the wife of Tsar Lazar – Milica – gave her daughter Olivera to Sultan Bayezid to take her to his harem. And it was Sultan Bayezid who actually killed Olivera’s father, Tsar Lazar, at the Battle of Kosovo Polje. She did this in order to save her people. These are historical facts and not myths.
You have stated that the negotiations you participated in were extremely difficult.
– These were definitely the most difficult political negotiations on Kosovo, because they were the first negotiations led after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, as well as after the fact that a significant number of countries recognized that unilateral and illegal declaration of independence. This is a question of to be or not to be, not only for the north of Kosovo, but for the whole of Serbia, to choose whether we will have Serbia tomorrow in soup kitchens and suffocated by tears, or strong and prosperous.
You gained majority support in the parliament. Everyone welcomed the agreement from Brussels except members of the Democratic Party of Serbia, its leader Vojislav Koštunica and a few isolated members.
– Just because someone does not want to lie about Kosovo does not mean that they love it less. We fought, the country struggled under sanctions, we lost battles and territories, looted ourselves during the transition and only if we have the courage, do not lie to ourselves and have a vision will our generation be able to make a prosperous country from Serbia. Someone had to do this, to get something from nothing. We know that it is not enough. We know that we have not had Kosovo for a long time. We have just a small part and, of course, we saved that.
Since you were born in Kosovo, in Prizren, how was the initialling of the agreement with Pristina viewed by your family?
– They know that whatever I do, I do in the interest of the nation and Serbia. Of course my family is suffering because of my job, but they have always been, and remain, my support.
There are differing views on the agreement from Serbs living in northern Kosovo and those based south of the river Ibar, who live in enclaves. Serbs from the north rejected it.
– Serbs in southern Kosovo have spent 14 years living with the fact that in front of them they have Pristina authorities that consider themselves independent and that is how they act. This, of course, does not mean they have given up their identity and political struggle. Regardless of the comments and different views, here we are not talking about whether or not we will recognize Kosovo, but wether we will use this transition period to improve the lives of Serbs. For the first time Serbia received guarantees that Albanian armed force cannot eneter northern Kosovo. This means that the reality of the north cannot be changed and everyone needs to be aware of that.
But Serbs in the north reject it?
– Unfortunately, we are not talking about what we would like and what we want. We have a situation about which we can have different views. At this point it is impossible to achieve a better result. All political parties have been in power and had their chances at some point. Thay gave proposals to the international community that were not even taken into consideration.
Does this mean that the signing of the agreement could have come earlier if there had been political will?
– At one point First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and I found ourselves in a situation where we did not get something we were looking for that was envisaged in the Ahtisaari plan because, as we were told, Serbia has already rejected the plan. Kosovo Serbs will continue to be part of our constitutional-legal order and will receive assistance from the state, only such assistance will be realized in a different, more transparent, way. Unfortunately, this is all a consequence of the defeat we suffered after the conflict with NATO.
But your former party president, Slobodan Milošević, said that it was a victory.
– One who did not live in reality could not keep a realistic policy. We lead realistic policies, policies that do not sacrifice the people. If someone has to be sacrificed, let’s sacrifice ourselves as individuals and not allow the whole nation to suffer. It’s easier for us to suffer insults and threats than to see the suffering of the nation. With this we have provided for the continuation of European integration, which is important for our country and our people. You remember that when the bombing started everyone spent the first ten days on Republic Square in the centre of Belgrade protesting. And what happened after a few weeks?! There was nobody left and everyone prayed to God to stop the bombing, even at the cost of losing the whole of Kosovo.
You once advocated for the partition of Kosovo. That topic is not on the table today, but do you think this agreement is just the beginning that could still lead to a kind of division in the future?
– It is important for Serbs to have their own entity and identity! I stand by my thesis that division is good and I will always suggest it because I believe that division is the easiest, best and most natural way to resolve this issue. We should not give up on the fight and should, especially in agreement with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin, see how feasible and appropriate it is. You know, that fight cannot be led without their influence and agreement with the major Western powers.
Following the signing of an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, the issue of a referendum in Serbia about it was immediately raised. What would a referendum bring Serbia if it comes to that?
– I did not support the staging of a referendum. Not because I fear the reaction of the citizens, but because I believe that it can cause a division that would result in Serbia continuing to lag behind economically and I have to say that I have a fear that it poses the threat of a new war.
What do you mean?
– Well, it could lead to a conflict between Serbs living in central Serbia and Serbs living in Kosovo. And then it will logically lead to us asking if we should sacrifice seven million people who live in the rest of Serbia because of the 50,000 Serbs in northern Kosovo. On the one hand, if the Serbs in the north do not accept the decision of the referendum it would go into the hands of those forces who want to minimise the influence of the Serbs in the north.
They say that the decision will not be accepted at any price. How will you proceed?
– The government has implementation mechanisms that the state could use, but our goal is to involve the Serbs in the north. The mechanisms are simple – end salaries and jobs and we have solved the problem of so-called parallel institutions, but this government did not and does not want to do so. It is obvious that a referendum is not an option for them: first of all we do not have time to get the issue debated for months; secondly, it is first required to establish the constitutionality of the agreement and, thirdly, it is stated that one cannot carry out the implementation of laws that violate the applicable Constitution. So what do we need a referendum for?! I will underline, the Serbian government has no intention of changing the course it has taken and there is complete unity on that point in the government!
Implementation is currently being discussed, while the Serbs from the north stubbornly continue to reject the agreement.
– We do not have much time, because there are time limits for making a decision on the date for the start of negotiations with the EU. A referendum cannot be prepared for several months if something is not first done on the implementation of the agreement. A referendum cannot cover for a failure to implement the agreement.
Will state leaders accept a request by the Serbs of the north to decide how they will formulate the referendum question, if there is a referendum?
– That’s not possible. We would throw away all that we have done so far. The referendum question must not be a trap.
According to you, how should that be?
– Remember the 1990s, when the referendum question was whether we would allow foreign boots to come onto our territory. We all voted that we would not. A few months later, someone else’s boots came and stayed. The question may be whether people accept the agreement or not. It cannot be a question of whether you are for or against Kosovo remaining part of Serbia. That is not a question. It is a given.
You said at one point that negotiations could be conducted directly. Does that mean you will go to Pristina or that Hashim Thaci will come to Belgrade?
– From the beginning we have advocated for direct negotiations. Some 20 years ago. The Albanians never wanted that. They did not want to negotiate without an intermediary. Because in that case they are weak. Their power comes not from the righteousness of their claims, but from the support they get from part of the international community. Unfortunately, we did not have any friends in the West who would say: “You’re in the right”.
In your opinion, how was EU High Representative Catherine Ashton as the negotiator?
– I would like to thank Cathy Ashton for everything! She demonstrated understanding for Serbia’s demands. I’ll explain how it all went. Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić, First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and I defined the minimum requirements that were acceptable to us. Ashton accepted it. When item 14 of the Agreement was withdrawn, which required that Kosovo be a part of international organizations, we did not have any more leeway to say “no”. This would mean that Serbia didn’t want any kind of agreement.
Did you build any kind of personal relationships with Ashton and, if so, what sort?
– I have to say that it was obvious she gained confidence in us, in our negotiating team. Deputy PM Vučić participated in the talks because it was important for the strength of our position. To ensure that nobody could think they could play on the differences in our state leadership. It was very important that we were united.
How much did America influence the Brussels agreement?
– America has had an impact, through contacts with Catherine Ashton. She looked at the U.S. as an opportunity to exert pressure on the Pristina side. Surely only a stupid man could say that America did not have an impact on the negotiations.
Thaci was not interested in anything at the start
Did you have any unpleasant situations with Hashim Thaci during all the rounds of negotiations?
– There were different situations. The Albanians went with a logic that they have their laws and stances and nothing else interests them. At one point I literally said to Thaci: “Well fine, if you are not interested in anything, here are your laws, now go to the north of Kosovo and implement them”. And I threw him one of their laws that was on the table.
What was Thaci’s reaction?
– Nothing. He returned the law to me.
Were there any informal discussions between the two of you? Is that even possible?
– There were no informal discussions. They avoided all contact with us. Finally, on the last day, when it came to initialling the agreement, we did not even want to have contact with Thaci. We told Ashton what we had and she went to them. We did not want to start the start from the beginning again.
Discussions to follow on churches, property etc.
Will there be a formal signing ceremony for the agreement?
– This is not a final agreement, but rather the initialling of a document. Following discussions about the church, private and state property, energy, the return of displaced people, amnesty etc. The resolution of a number of specific things will follow. A team has been formed that will work on the implementation of the agreement. A joint group from the EU, Belgrade and Pristina will be formed. The process continues.
A date for the commencement of negotiations is envisaged
We have completed the agreement, so this means we have secured a date?
– When I asked Catherine Ashton about the date, she replied that it is envisaged. I expect her to fulfil her promise.
Can Serbia expect major investments and investors?
– Already in the first few days there were investors who contacted us because they feel it is now safer to invest. In May I will be in the U.S. and, based on the promise of Hillary Clinton, I will organize an investors conference connected to IT technology. I will have meetings with the heads of Microsoft, Apple, Cisco and IBM, who all want to develop their businesses with us.
Izvor – Tekst i foto: Kurir International