Rasim Ljajic believes that a frozen conflict related to the Kosovo issue does not suit Serbia, and proposes “normalization without recognition” as a solution.
The minister of trade, telecommunications, and tourism, who also serves as a deputy PM and is the leader of the SDPS party, is the latest Serbian official to write an op-ed on this topic for a Belgrade newspaper, since President Aleksandar Vucic launched his “internal dialogue on Kosovo.”
In his article published in the daily Blic, Ljajic proposes resolving the issue in three phases – with Serbia asking the EU to make “concrete concessions” in exchange for Belgrade “agreeing to Kosovo’s admission to international organizations.”
According to him, hardly anywhere do historical and ethnic principles “clash so directly and intensely” as in Kosovo.
“The Albanians always knew what they wanted in Kosovo, the Serbs mostly knew what they did not want,” wrote Ljajic, adding that the Albanians “always sought strong international support, especially from the EU and the US, while the Serbs defied both, and very often made to their own detriment.”
He also thinks that “a return to the old is unrealistic”.
“Neither the Albanians want it, nor does Serbia need a dysfunctional state with two million people who hate that state. On the other hand, without an agreement with Serbia and the consent of Russia and China, Kosovo can hardly remain a state with full international subjectivity,” Ljajic stated.
As he emphasized, “regardless of the diametrically different starting positions regarding the final status of Kosovo, one thing is certain – the state of frozen conflict does not suit either, that is, it puts brakes on economic development, European integration and modernization.”
This, however, “does not mean that an alternative to the frozen conflict is to resolve the final status of Kosovo ‘here and now’,” said Ljajic, who believes that “society both in Serbia and Kosovo is not ready for a comprehensive solution.”
“That’s why we propose an intermediate solution, ‘ normalization without recognition’, which would open the issue of Kosovo immediately and solve it in three phases,” he said.
The first phase would involve the removal of all barriers to full economic and trade cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo, as well as free movement, without existing administrative restrictions on people, goods and capital.
“To that end, we propose that a free economic zone be established in the north of Kosovo, which would be open to investment from both central Serbia and Kosovo,” Ljajic said.
The second phase would, he continued, include the opening of negotiations on the property of Serbia in Kosovo, the cultural heritage and the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities.
“The third phase would open negotiations on Kosovo’s membership in all international organizations except the UN. For each consent of Serbia for Kosovo’s accession to a single organization, we would ask for concrete concessions from the EU in terms of implementing large infrastructure projects, but also concessions that imply a faster path to the EU,” he said.
As Ljajic pointed out, “this does not mean that we are looking for a privileged status in the accession process without meeting the basic criteria and standards, but only that there are no ‘unforeseen’ obstacles on the road to the EU.”
This phase, he added, includes a donor conference to provide funding for various economic projects that would be proposed.
After reaching agreement has been reached on these three issues, “a normalization agreement would be signed, kick starting the so-called transition period, which would last five years, during which the realization of the reached agreements would be monitored.”
“At the end of this period, we propose holding an international conference on Kosovo with the participation of the EU, the United States and Russia, with the aim of reaching a final solution to the status of Kosovo,” Ljajic said.
“We do not think this is the best solution, because it does not exist. “e do not expect this to be the most just solution, because that too is an illusion. We are looking for a solution that is the least unfair,” he said.