When UN special envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari unveiled his status proposal on Friday (February 2nd), Belgrade found itself in a difficult position. In the wake of the January 21st general elections, Serbia effectively has neither a parliament nor government.
Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, saying he no longer has the mandate to deal with the most important state issues, refused to meet with Ahtisaari during the envoy’s visit to Belgrade.
Currently the sole legitimate representative of the Belgrade authorities is President Boris Tadic. After receiving the proposal, he described it as paving the way to sovereignty for Kosovo, which has been under UN administration since 1999.
“Neither Serbia, nor I as its president, will ever accept the independence of Kosovo,” he insisted.
Belgrade analysts say the Kosovo issue will put an additional strain on the forming of a new Serbian democratic government. A coalition between Tadic and Kostunica’s parties, with support from the pro-Western G17 Plus, would have a majority in parliament. But the parties have not been able to agree on who will get the post of prime minister.
Moreover, Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DPS) has staked out a hardline position on Kosovo as a condition for its participation in any new cabinet.
DPS demanded that its coalition partners pledge never to recognise an independent Kosovo. The party’s platform states that relations between Serbia and any country that acknowledges Kosovo “would inevitably deteriorate”.
In terms of domestic politics, some analysts interpreted DPS’s move as a sign that it is drifting away from the democratic bloc and towards the far-right Serbian Radical Party (SRS), with which it could also form a majority in parliament.
However, the Radicals have so far dismissed the possibility of forming a government with Kostunica.
At the same time, the stakes are becoming higher. Clear signals have been sent from the EU that the future democratic government would be offered the resumption of Stabilisation and Association talks with the EU. They were interrupted last May due to Belgrade’s lax co-operation with The Hague tribunal.
Kosovo Serbs, meanwhile, have put pressure on the parties in Belgrade to settle their differences. Representatives of the Serb municipalities in Kosovo have demanded the urgent formation of a government that would fight Kosovo’s potential independence.
At a Monday meeting with the president, the representatives of the parliamentary parties agreed on the urgency of constituting a new parliament that would take a stand on Ahtisaari’s proposal, and of appointing a negotiating team that would try to win a more favourable settlement.