"Germans want Kosovo removed from Constitution"

BELGRADE -- Chapter 35 in Serbia's negotiations for EU membership "will not be closed until the Serbian Constitution is harmonized with the Brussels agreement (on Kosovo)."

(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)

The daily Vecernje Novosti writes that the Constitution's preamble and articles defining the country's territorial arrangements are targeted by this.

Besides the 11 conditions for the opening of the "key chapter, on Kosovo," writes the daily, "Berlin has delivered another demand to Serbia: that our Constitution be aligned with the Brussels agreement!"

As the paper said it learned, without complying with this requirement chapter 35 will not be closed, "so the membership in the EU, therefore, hangs on this thin thread."

The article adds that it has "so far not been clearly defined" whether adjusting the country's highest legal act involves deleting the preamble, which states clearly that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia. However, "according to many," this is precisely the biggest trap in Berlin's package which actually implies recognition of Kosovo as independent, the daily newspaper wrote.

The contentious points could be articles 182 and 16 of the Constitution, relating to the territorial organization of Serbia and international relations. "Brussels could seek the removal of the formulation in the Constitution that Serbia has two autonomous provinces, and also that the statement that 'all international treaties must be in accordance with the Constitution' is changed."

According to Vecernje Novosti, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs has worked for months to formulate the content of the Kosovo chapter, while Serbian officials learned about the exact list of conditions in early October, when German MFA official Ernst Reichel was visiting.

Professor of Constitutional Law Ratko Markovic told the paper that the demand to harmonization of the Constitution with the Brussels agreement applies to all parts which refer to Kosovo, two in particular:

"I expect that Brussels will ask the removal of the mention of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija in part dealing with the territorial organization of Serbia, as well as to delete the sentence that Kosovo's essential autonomy will be arranged in a separate law. Also, Brussels will insist that in the Constitution, international law and treaties have primacy over the domestic legislation."

Head of EU Delegation in Serbia Michael Davenport said this week that negotiations between Serbia and the EU did not stop and that nothing is lost.

He said that screenings were completed for chapters 23 of the 35, while Serbia was working on action plans for chapters 23 and 24.

The daily said that the German embassy commented on "the verified information about Berlin's 11 conditions for the opening of chapter 35," to say it was not true that such a list existed. But they confirmed that the government of Germany will agree to the opening of chapter 35 "only when the obligations arising from the agreement on normalization of relations from April 2013 are fully implemented and when Serbia clearly expresses readiness to continue the dialogue with Kosovo."

"The Serbian government has long been informed of these expectations. Now, after the government of Kosovo has finally been formed, it is important that the high political level dialogue resumes as soon as possible and contributes to a rapid closure of the gaps in the implementation of the agreement on normalization of relations. The EU expects from Serbia and Kosovo further progress in the process of normalization of relations," the daily quoted the embassy.