Brnabic: International law not respected in regard to Serbs in 1999 and 2008, the world has not been the same since then

FOTO: Instagram/Ana Brnabić

„There’s not a single principle that anyone clung to when they either unilaterally declared Kosovo’s independence or when it comes to those who recognized Kosovo. All principles of international law have been violated most brutally. Pandora’s box was opened and since then we have seen various imitations of that scenario, even in some EU countries,“ the outgoing Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, said today in the North Macedonia lake resort of Ohrid.

Western Balkans leaders attended the Prespa Forum in Ohrid where they talked about „building the future of the Western Balkans in a modern European security architecture“.

„In 1999 and 2008, international public law was literally not respected when it comes to the Republic of Serbia and the Serbian people. Since then the world has not been the same,“ the Serbian prime minister underlined, while addressing media afterwards.

While claiming that the ‘rule of the strongest’ has prevailed in the world since the aggression on the former Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia, 23 years ago, in light of the latest messages from Germany and the European Parliament document on the need for mutual recognition of Serbia and Kosovo, Brnabic reminded of the EU’s official position on the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo – which does not include „mutual recognition“.

Serbia is not the one playing dumb, but those who say that mutual recognition with Kosovo is implied, she alleged.

„They are playing dumb as if they are not aware of the official position of the EU. If the EU stands by it, then it needs to change its negotiating position. But while this negotiating position is in force, then it is officially a document,“ Brnabic warned.

Furthermore, the Serbian Prime Minister underlined that she shared what the official document states with the journalists today due to the enormous pressure and accusations made against Serbia as a “disruptive factor” in the Western Balkans.

„Here is Serbia’s official negotiating position, it is also the common position of the EU, where you have Chapter 35 – other issues, item one – normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. You see that Kosovo is marked with an asterisk, which means that the EU – in its official document on the negotiating position with Serbia – calls and says that the label Kosovo is in accordance with Resolution 1244 which recognizes the territorial integrity of the internationally recognized Republic of Serbia, which means that Kosovo is an autonomous province part of the Republic of Serbia and which says that Serbia remains committed to dialogue under the auspices of the EU, is engaged in reaching further agreements on new topics, new agreements improving the process of normalization, in good faith to gradually lead to comprehensive normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo in line with the negotiating framework.“

According to Brnabic, just as North Macedonia failed in obtaining the status of an EU candidate, Serbia can also share its fate thanks to the latest conditions regarding mutual recognition with Kosovo.

She underlined that this will make the EU path for everyone in the Western Balkans that much harder. Brnabic also alerted that it is actually already happening to Serbia, while also reminding of Serbia’s territorial integrity.

“Within our negotiating position, what is being talked about is the overall normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, i.e. Serbia and Kosovo but Kosovo with an asterisk, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1244, which guarantees the territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia within its internationally recognized borders. There is no mention of the recognition of the so-called republic of Kosovo by the Republic of Serbia, which is talked about now.”

Precedents repeated

This is not in line with the EU’s position, Brnabic added, emphasizing that the precedent set regarding Kosovo is repeating itself.

„One thing we have seen is that when a precedent is set, it repeats itself. What has been done is a precedent. Resolving any bilateral issues and thus conditioning the European path of a country that has fulfilled all the conditions to obtain candidate status and start negotiations is a precedent, and if you ask me, it should not be repeated,“ the Serbian Prime Minister said.

She added that a precedent would be made if the EU changes its negotiating position in the middle of the process, and Serbia is urged to recognize Kosovo as a condition of its EU membership.

The „hypocrisy and shame“ of the West

Brnabic also revealed that she is familiar with “the hypocrisy of the West” toward Serbia.

Moreover, since the war in Ukraine broke out, Serbia has been in an even more difficult situation precisely because of the „huge hypocrisy“ of a number of European and other countries that have recognized Kosovo’s independence – she warned.

„While they are fighting for the territorial integrity of Ukraine in accordance with international law and the basic principle of international law, it is the territorial integrity of internationally recognized states, for which they have the full support of the Republic of Serbia because we agree with that stance. At the same time, this first principle of international law did not apply to the Republic of Serbia, instead, it was violated in 1999 and 2008. So how come now – in the case of Ukraine – that territorial integrity of internationally recognized states must be defended at all costs, while it was violated in Serbia’s case?!”

Brnabic described the 1999 bombing, “without the decision of the United Nations, as a catastrophic decision” – as is the case now when it comes to Ukraine.

As another example of hypocrisy, Brnabic cites a selective approach to respecting UN documents and pressuring other countries to do the same.

„How is it possible to violate UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and it was violated by all those who recognized Kosovo, while at the same time calling for respect for the resolution for other cases?! Since there is no international law any longer, but there is a stronger and more powerful force, in that case, who decides exactly which Security Council resolution should be respected and which should not be respected? Because you are forcing others who do not recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo to recognize Kosovo? You are forcing and blackmailing them to recognize Kosovo, thus forcing them to violate a resolution?!“

The Serbian Prime Minister also explained the reason why she linked Kosovo and the war in Ukraine, emphasizing that it is a matter of „enormous complexity“ of Serbia’s specific position.

When such countries look at Serbia, they see their own hypocrisy and double standards. They don’t want to see that. When they look at Serbia, they see their own shame

In her words, that is why everyone should return to the positions of international law.

„Aggression will be known to be aggression, respect for international integrity will be a respect for the territorial integrity of internationally recognized states and inviolability at any cost of that territorial integrity, and that is it. We know where we are at and you do not choose based on your strength and power when you will recognize that and when you will not.“

When asked to explain her analogy of the two cases with regard to Serbia’s „internationally confirmed war crimes in Kosovo – 1,000 children killed, 20,000 raped women“, i.e. whether it means „that Russia is not guilty either“, Brnabic replied that her words should not be twisted.

„What is international law is completely clear. You have the inviolability of the territorial integrity of internationally recognized states. Therefore, in international law, such territorial integrity is inviolable at any cost. It is untouchable. And that has never happened before, except in the case of Serbia. It has never happened since,“ she said.

„When we talk about what is a big enough reason for the aggression against one country, who decides it, then the Russian Federation said that they carried out a military operation to prevent genocide, which took place on the territory of Ukraine over a period of eight years. I am not going into that, for me, aggression against an internationally recognized state is aggression because territorial integrity is inviolable.“

Brnabic emphasized that apart from the fact that territorial integrity is inviolable, exact numbers must also be taken into account.

„When you look at the numbers, and I don’t like to speak in numbers when talking about human lives and I don’t like that you bid on the numbers because you are demeaning those women who have been raped, the children, and people who have been killed because the numbers you shared cannot be found anywhere, because they are not correct and it did not happen. And when Pristina called for rape reports, just over 900 women reported it, which is terrible, catastrophic, reprehensible, so don’t talk about 20,000 of such cases.“

Brnabic then denied that genocide was committed in Kosovo, stating that no judgment was ever issued on it.

„Instead, Kosovo remains the territory with the fewest returnees in the world after the war. We had a pogrom in 2004, churches and monasteries were destroyed. A total of 8 Serbs were killed, almost all Serbs from the south were expelled. We’ve had ethnic cleansing of towns, such as Pristina, Gnjilane, Djakovica and others. After this ethnic cleansing, we’ve had pogroms, demolition of churches and monasteries, even those under UNESCO protection, for four years after that, then someone declared independence without a referendum, and someone ran head first to recognize that independence.“

„If that is the case, then let them agree that the principle of self-determination should be valid, and then everyone will have the right to self-determination, not only those powerful and strong to apply one principle in one place and some other principle in another,“ she said ironically.

Never has a regional meeting or forum placed a greater focus on Serbia than it is the case with this Prespa Forum (said in a negative light)

Speaking about the pressures placed on Serbia, the Serbian Prime Minister revealed that at the preparatory meeting for the Prespa Forum in Ohrid, on May 30, „incredible things“ could be heard from the influential US professor Edward Joseph:

“That the problem of the entire region is the ethnonationalism of Serbia and Bulgaria, that Serbia is the one dragging the whole region away from European Euro-Atlantic integration, that it is best to keep Serbian influence in the states of the region as small as possible, while also citing Croatia as the most positive example, and it’s good for that country. These are incredible things to hear from a professor.“

She added that similar criticism continued yesterday, when there was no Serbian representative in Ohrid, revealing that Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said that Serbia was aware of the request to recognize Kosovo.

„To paraphrase, Serbia is now allegedly playing dumb in not knowing that it needs to recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo to remain on its path to the EU,“ she said.

Open Balkans

On the other hand, Brnabic had only words of praise for the Prime Minister of Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, who reportedly spoke highly of Serbia and the Open Balkans initiative.

„Which is excellent. As now there is an established group of countries in the Western Balkans around the Open Balkans initiative, which fully believe in that initiative, in the concrete advantage of that initiative for their economy, entrepreneurs, citizens,“ says Brnabic, adding that the work on the realization of the initiative and the agreements signed so far will be accelerated.

During the forum, the outgoing Serbian Prime Minister spoke about the Open Balkans, i.e. the importance of the EU for Serbia because over 65% of Serbia’s foreign trade and investments are with the EU, an additional 17% with the region, which covers over 82% of economic cooperation and investments.

„There are huge potentials if everyone from the Western Balkans joins the Open Balkans initiative. That would mean that our economies, that is, our GDP, can grow by an additional 7%,“ she stressed, noting that such growth is not observed in any other area.

She also announced a visit to the Presevo-Tabanovce crossing in the next few days, that is, the „Open Balkans“ route.

Even though entrepreneurs recently complained about the slowness and problems while using the Open Balkans route – the Serbian President also spoke about the issue, announcing the solution to the problem – Brnabic now says that „everyone is forced to wait in line at this crossing for a number of days, while those who take the Open Balkans route are not.“

„They don’t wait – not even a minute. That is the most concrete example of what we can do together and how much this contributes to strengthening our economy,“ she concluded.

 

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