Serbia’s New Kosovo Office Chief Strikes Militant Line

Aleksandar Vulin, head of new office coordinating all 17 ministries on Kosovo, says he will never shake hands with Kosovo leaders and issues ringing defence of Serbian-funded bodies in Kosovo.”No one will ever shake hands with [Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim] Thaci.” So said Aleksandar Vulin, the hardline new head of Serbia’s Office for Kosovo.

He was referring to the recent handshake between Serbia’s former President, Boris Tadic, and the Kosovo leader.Vulin will run the government body specialising in Kosovo that has replaced the old Ministry for Kosovo.

Besides the Office, all 17 ministries will have a department specialising in Kosovo, Balkan Insight has learned from the cabinet. The Office is to coordinate the work of various specialist sectors related to Kosovo.

“All ministries will certainly have to deal with Kosovo and the role of the Office will be to encourage them to keep it [Kosovo] on the agenda all the time,” Vulin said.

Vulin, 39, was a founder of the Yugoslav Left, JUL, in 1994. The party was once led by Mirjana Markovic, wife of Serbia’s late strongman, Slobodan Milosevic.

Vulin later shifted to Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, and in 2008 founded the Movement of Socialists, which formed part of the now ruling Serbian Progressive Party’s May general election list.

Vulin also pledged not to abolish Serbia-funded so-called “parallel institutions” in the Serb-run northern part of Kosovo, calling them legal and legitimate.

“Serbian institutions in Kosovo are not ‘parallel’, and if there are any parallel institutions, they are the institutions of Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, whose influence we need to marginalize,” Vulin explained.

Vulin’s words appeared to contrast with Serbia’s pledge to restart in good faith EU-mediated talks with Kosovo, which are to recommence once Serbia’s new government is sworn in.

However, Vulin will not pay a role in the Kosovo talks.

In June, Serbia’s new President, Tomislav Nikolic, announced after his visit to Brussels that either he or the future prime minister will conduct the talks.

Belgrade and Pristina started the talks in Brussels in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence, which Serbia refuses to recognise.

So far, the two sides have reached deals on freedom of movement, mutual recognition of university diplomas and on Kosovo’s representation at regional meetings.

The Serbian government is yet to determine where the Office for Kosovo will be located but Vulin said he would be spending more time in Kosovo than in Belgrade in any case.

The new government, which consists of the Progressives, the Socialists and the United Regions of Serbia, will be headed by Ivica Dacic, leader of the Socialists and once the right-hand man of Milosevic.

Parliamentary speaker Nebojsa Stefanovic has called a special session on Thursday at which parliament will approve the new government.

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