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Politics

Serbian President Demands Kosovo Referendum

In a sign of growing tension between him and the government, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic on Sunday declared that any major decisions made on Kosovo must go to a referendum.

Ivana Nikolic
BIRN

Serbia’s President on Sunday said that if the government makes key decisions on future relations with the former province of Kosovo under pressure from the EU, the issue must be put to the public in a referendum.

The people have a right to decide on whether to accept the EU’s conditions, Tomislav Nikolic told the TV show “Teska Rec” (“Hard Word“) on TV Pink on December 28.

“There must be a referendum. Whatever citizens decide, that will be. But if citizens then say [in a referendum] that I should sign Kosovo’s independence, I will resign,” Nikolic said, referring to European pressure on Serbia to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Nikolic delivered the warning ahead of the publication of his own strategy on Kosovo – the exact details of which are unknown.

Political analyst Dusan Janjic believes the President will be pushing for the creation within Kosovo of a Serbian semi-independent statelet, similar to the Serbian entity in Bosnia.

According to Janjic, Nikolic wants “a [Serbian] state within a state, like the one in Bosnia”.

However, problems may occur if this goal conflicts with the government’s more conciliatory approach to the EU, he added.

“If he [Nikolic] insists on this policy, the President could block both the government and Serbia’s path to the EU,” Janjic warned.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, and Serbia has consistently said it will never recognise this unilateral act.

However, the policy of non-recognition of Kosovo is encountering growing pressure from Brussels, which has made it clear that the dispute will have to be resolved one way or the other before Serbia can join the European club.

Nikolic announced on December 18 that he was drafting his own plan for Kosovo for which he would seek government support.

Although he did not reveal what his plan would include, he said he did not expect it to satisfy either Belgrade or Pristina.

Noting that Serbia’s priority was to join the EU, he said it remained unclear whether recognising Kosovo’s independence would be a condition.

“If the condition for membership is for us to recognise Kosovo’s independence, that would be a sign that the EU does not want us,” he maintained.

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