President describes Kosovo platform as "realistic"

BELGRADE -- "I will sooner withdraw from the negotiations than take part in something that is not good for Serbia," President Tomislav Nikolić has said.

Tomislav Nikolić (Beta)
Tomislav Nikolić (Beta)

In an interview for the Beta news agency, Nikolić explained that he was "working on a resolution that should be adopted in parliament, and which should, based on the platform on Kosovo, define a framework for continued negotiations with Priština".

He stressed that it would be important for MPs to adopt the resolution before Orthodox Christmas - January 7 - so that Belgrade's negotiators could resume the talks "strengthened and with the whole parliament standing behind them".

"That resolution must be binding for those who will be negotiating on behalf of Serbia from the day it is adopted forward. However, the platform will always be its component part. The platform will not be put up for a vote, but I am thinking about offering leaders of parliamentary parties to sign in," the president told the news agency.

According to him, the draft resolution will be sent to the parties "long before the session that should adopt it":

"I would like to see parliament stand behind a document that irritates nobody, except those who are saying that Kosovo is independent. But then, it irritates me when somebody says that Kosovo is independent."

As for the platform he drafted, Nikolić described it as realistic, and "on the level to which the Democratic Party has reduced the country":

"The platform is such that more cannot be done, and less must not be done. I am, however, prepared to accept all good suggestions, some of which have already been heard."

The president added that customs duties would not be collected for goods shipped to northern, Serb part of Kosovo until January 10, "but that nobody knows what happens afterwards".

"I do not like us being taken by surprise, letting the citizens react to events. For that reason I think it is important to adopt some resolution by Christmas, because the power is greater of the one who negotiates with a decision of the entire parliament behind them. They then have no right to make concessions, then, negotiations go in a different direction," Nikolić stated, and added:

"I'm making an effort to help and give advice, but I must first know how things are going, what it looks like - that is why I produced the platform, to bind us together, so that we know which book we're carrying with us and to which book we look to see what we can and cannot do. Until now I saw no serious plan, it was about going from task to task."

According to him, the current government found itself in a situation where it had to execute agreements reached previously with Priština and the EU.

"There is something that can no longer be executed, and that is allowing Kosovo to one day be independent. It seems to me that plenty has been done in a fog to recognize Kosovo and Metohija. One cannot condemn one's own people to take the citizenship of Kosovo, and then say they do not recognize that state," Nikolić explained.

According to him, the platform's goal was to put an end to that "erosion" - for Serbia to open its eyes:

"We had our heads stuck in the sand, while Kosovo and Metohija was going away. For that reason, I will sooner exclude myself from the negotiations that take part in something that I know is not good for Serbia."

“The platform is the last act, I have been writing it for years. I take out some authority every year because I can see that it can no longer be achieved. How long are we going to go on like this? We would even have to change this platform next year. This is a good test for politicians in Serbia as to what they think, say and do,” he noted.

According to him, the EU is facing a difficult challenge after the platform was presented.

“If all its organs in the field are status neutral, then it cannot say change the platform that says that Kosovo is not independent,” Nikolić stressed.

He added that he had been informed that Serbian Patriarch Irinej was satisfied with the platform, especially with things regarding the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and noted that the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts should also voice its opinion about the document.

“The best effect of the platform is that the Albanians said they would abandon the negotiations,” the president pointed out.

According to him, there are no tensions between him and Prime Minister Ivica Dačić over the platform and the negotiations in Brussels.

“Dačić now has the duty to implement, he is not negotiating. There is no new topic here, this is about the implementation. So I cannot be displeased with what the prime minister is doing because we have to implement what has been agreed. But if the agreement is that there is no custom duty for northern Kosovo, then the customs should not be at Jarinje in the first place but at a location where the customs begin. We should insist on that in a completely different way,” Nikolić explained.

The Serbian president expressed expectation that the opposition would act responsibly when it comes to the adoption of the Kosovo platform, stressing that no party could reject the document in advance.