Pristina’s new official negotiating team for talks with Belgrade in Brussels has agreed what it calls a ‘Dialogue Platform’ for negotiations on a final and legally-binding agreement on the normalisation of relations with Serbia – including a demand that Belgrade pledges to recognise Kosovo.
The negotiating platform, which BIRN has seen, was delivered to parliament speaker Kadri Veseli on Friday and will soon be put to a vote in the legislature.
The first principle agreed by the negotiators says that Kosovo’s main goal is to obtain recognition from Serbia with four legally binding promises, including the dropping of Belgrade’s objections to Kosovo joining the UN.
The platform document says that Pristina wants “the halting of all activities that hinder Kosovo on the journey towards its international recognition as an independent and sovereign country; the respecting of the territorial sovereignty and integrity of the Republic of Kosovo; the halting of objections, or the encouraging of third parties to object to, the application of the Republic of Kosovo to join international organisations, including the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and their agencies; and giving up all forms of interference in the internal matters or international relations of the Republic of Kosovo”.
The platform insists that a final deal with Belgrade must include an agreement to establish a new tribunal “for the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of war crimes committed by Serbia in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999”.
The suggestion of a new court to try Serbs comes as the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a Hague-based tribunal set up to try former Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas and others for wartime crimes in Kosovo, prepares to issue its first indictments.
The Kosovo negotiators’ platform also says that issues like wartime missing persons, victims of wartime sexual violence and reparations for war damage should become part of the negotiations with Serbia.
The platform includes a further principle which states that the territory of Kosovo shall not be altered.
Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci caused controversy last year when he suggested that there might be a “border correction” with Serbia as part of a final deal to normalise relations.
The issue caused a serious rift between Thaci and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who strongly opposes any border changes such as an exchange of territory with Serbia.
After delivering the platform to the parliament speaker, the joint leader of the negotiation team, Fatmir Limaj, urged MPs to adopt it.
“The principles are ones that guarantee peace in this part of the region. Everyone should get it clear that Kosovo is going to Brussels for recognition, nothing else,” Limaj told media.
According to the platform, the final agreement between Pristina and Belgrade will enter into force only after “a) Serbia has recognised Kosovo, b) a referendum for the agreement has been held in Kosovo, and c) the agreement is ratified by the parliaments of the two countries”.
Serbia has vowed never to recognise its former province as independent.
Talks between officials from Pristina and Belgrade have been ongoing in Brussels since 2013, and a successful outcome is seen as crucial to both countries’ hopes of joining the EU.
However the talks are currently suspended amid a row over Kosovo’s imposition of import taxes on Serbian goods.