Serbia: Fine, No War Over Kosovo’s Independence, But World . . . See You Later!

Despite the flip-flopping and tough talk, and in an attempt to soften the rhetoric for “moderate” voters, it seems abundantly clear that Serbia’s politicians will not push the country to war when Kosovo declares independence in the coming weeks.  But it is equally clear that politicians have now put Serbia into fourth gear on the road to isolation.

The Radical Party’s Tomislav Nikolic said it best about Serbia’s plan once Kosovo declares independence:  Serbia will “cut all economic ties, transport, flow of capital, goods and people from Albanian-controlled parts of Kosovo.” In connection with a total embargo, Serbia will likely expel ambassadors from countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence.  Unfortunately for Serbia, that list is growing, not shrinking.

Indeed, as January 28 rolls around (the date Serbia hopes to sign the EU pact), it will be hard for Serbia to reconcile its purported interest in joining the EU with its proposed plans for Kosovo’s inevitable independence.  It was reported in Beta yesterday that Aleksandar Popovic, Serbia’s Minister of Energy and Mining and member of Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party, warned that the EU would have to make a choice between “Serbia or a puppet creation.” 

With such language, coupled with its threats for total embargo and eventual expulsion of ambassadors, Serbia’s bid for EU membership will flounder before it even begins.

Serbia’s main ultranationalist presidential challenger said the country will not go to war over Kosovo but must impose a trade embargo and scale back diplomatic ties with its Western backers if the province secedes. The Radical Party’s Tomislav Nikolic is running against pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic in a closely fought January 20 presidential election that is expected to go down to the wire in a second round two weeks later.

The election is being fought in the shadow of an imminent declaration of independence by ethnic Albanians in Serbia’s breakaway southern province, which has been run by the United Nations since NATO drove out Serb forces in 1999.

Nikolic said Serbia should “cut all economic ties, transport, flow of capital, goods and people from Albanian-controlled parts of Kosovo.”  “Their passports will not be valid here, so Kosovo Albanians will not be able to enter Serbia,” he told the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti on Tuesday.

But the ultranationalist, whose party leader Vojislav Seselj is standing trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, added: “We will not send our children to war.”  All major parties in Serbia, and the main candidates for president, oppose independence for Kosovo. Analysts say Nikolic is softening his rhetoric to win over more moderate voters.

Nikolic’s proposed measures appeared to be in line with analyst predictions of what the Serbian government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica might do if faced with Western recognition of a Kosovo republic.  Nikolic said Serbia should expel ambassadors from those countries that choose to recognize Kosovo, which will likely include the United States and the major EU member states — a move analysts say will halt Belgrade’s EU accession bid.

Above article was published by Reuters and can be found here.


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