Kubiš: Sign SAA as soon as possible

"We are not making the issue of Kosovo into a condition. Linking Kosovo and the agreement will only slow down the signing, which is important because it brings down the barriers between Serbia and the European Union."

Guest: Jan Kubiš, Journalist: Ljubica Gojgić

Kubiš: As an EU member state we are in favor of respecting those conditions set before countries. But, since this is at the same time about a political process, and for this reason we believe the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement [SAA] would be a good way to open the doors toward a better cooperation between Serbia and the EU, but also between Slovakia and Serbia. This is why, for several months now, we have been putting forward that the signing is necessary, we want it signed as soon as possible.

B92: How likely is that, considering that Holland, and now Germany, are opposed to the idea?

Kubiš: We are aware of the stance of our Dutch colleagues, and that they seek full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. And, I must say, everyone else supports them in this. However, we think that it is possible to sign the agreement and insist that the cooperation be intensified. That's the difference. But, I must say that I was a little confused with the other side's position. Demands are heard from here that the EU should clarify its stance on Kosovo and Serbia, and this is sought before Serbia decides on whether to sign the agreement. I am not sure these two issues ought to be linked in such a way.

B92: Mr. Kubiš, you were given the message that Serbia wants clarifications from the EU; a significant number of political parties supports the position that there must be a clear statement on whether giving up Kosovo is a condition for continued European integrations?

Kubiš: I could answer with a question to you, and mention the example of Slovakia. Is the condition of changing our position on Kosovo put before Slovakia because we favor the signing of the agreement? As you know, there is no unified stand on Kosovo within the EU, and, as things stand, there will not be one for the foreseeable future. There are countries that do not recognize Kosovo's independence and those that have done so. What's common to them is that all the countries want to sign the agreement. As you can see the position on Kosovo is not relevant when we talk about the signing of this document. This question is not raised as far as we're concerned.

B92: In other words, you think this conditioning is coming from Belgrade – or does Brussels really expect Belgrade to give up Kosovo so that Serbia could become a member of the Union?

Kubiš: But, we're not talking about membership yet. That's a question that comes after implementing the SAA and membership negotiations. For this reason, it's not a relevant question and that condition is not coming from Brussels. We are all in favor of singing the agreement, it's just that some countries insist on better cooperation with the Hague. We are not making the issue of Kosovo into a condition. Linking Kosovo and the agreement will only slow down the signing, which is important because it brings down the barriers between Serbia and the European Union.

B92: You have repeated that Slovakia remains steadfast in its decision not to recognize Kosovo. I suppose there is pressure for you to change your mind?

Kubiš: We are a sovereign country. We make our decisions ourselves, based on our appraisal of what is right and what is not, based on available arguments. We have never hidden, from the very start, our government's position. We saw the direction in which things were going, I publicly said that it seemed that the process of Kosovo's independence was moving and that the train could not be stopped. At the same time, we advocated a solution reached through negotiations and supported by the [UN] Security Council. We are opposed to unilateral steps.

B92: Surely, you held discussion on Kosovo and the European mission on the ground. There are several hints as to a possible new round of negotiations between Belgrade, UNMIK and Priština, which would reportedly be dedicated to technical issues, but not Kosovo's status.

Kubiš: More information is needed. I am aware that there is an idea about technical issues talks, that this will be discussed. We salute the possibility that these negotiations could lead to the recognition of the fact that the European Union mission should deploy in the whole territory of Kosovo, and that a solution should be found, within the UN framework, to confirm the EULEX mandate and allow it to function. Of course, it remains to be seen. I wish for things to happen in that way.

B92: Will holding the parliamentary and local elections in Kosovo as well, in the Serb areas, be seen as a problem by you?

Kubiš: As long as Resolution 1244 is respected as well as the UN authority, and that of UNMIK, there will be no problems.

B92: These days, the talk is that the May elections will represent a choice between pro-European and anti-European options. You have had a chance to talk to both, what is your impression?

Kubiš: I have never declared myself on that. It's up to the citizens of Serbia to decide. They decide on who creates a better standard of living, and if this is the EU. It's their choice and I would not like to give my appraisal. We respect the will of the citizens and do not give our opinion on governments, rather, we cooperate with them.

B92: You did say that you will follow the elections carefully?

Kubiš: Oh, yes, I will, since whatever the result, it will determine how we – not only Slovakia but the EU as well – will cooperate with Serbia. Slovakia is a country that will work to promote bilateral cooperation and that [of Serbia] with the EU and NATO to the maximum, but up to the level that you want this cooperation to reach.

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