“Pristina’s taxes, the so-called Kosovo army, the erasing of the border between Kosovo and Albania – have taken the dialogue not one, but 50 steps backwards,” assessed Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic.
Speaking for Pink TV on Friday in Belgrade, Brnabic pointed out that due to all these decisions of the provisional institutions in Pristina she “does not see any indication of a compromise” – and instead believes that Belgrade and Pristina are increasingly removed from one.
The prime minster described as the greatest threat “the political decision” regarding the erasing of the border between Kosovo and Albania,” which, she said, obviously leads to the creation of Greater Albania.
“Regarding that erasing of borders, it seems to me that they will try to get away by mentioning the initiative that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had put on the table, which is to have a customs union, to have a connected Balkans for the sake of economic growth, development, peace, stability, and otherwise prosperity. However, it is ridiculous to make this argument at a time when the provisional institutions in Pristina are introducing taxes on goods from central Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, you cannot say that, on the one hand, you are in favor of not a political, but of economic removal of borders, and on the other hand impose (trade) barriers toward Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Brnabic said.
She pointed out that “borders are obviously on the table” – noting that the issue of borders could be on the table ten years ago, now it cannot – yet now we see that for some it can be, but not for the Serb Republic (the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina).
“Let’s see what are the principles we can talk about and try to reach a compromise solution. I absolutely want, I hope with all my heart that we will be able to reach some compromise solution and everything that has been happening, especially since November 6, shows how wrong those who say that frozen conflict is a good solution are,” the prime minister said.
She recalled that “everything starred on November 6, when Pristina raised taxes on goods from central Serbia by ten percent, then increased this to 100 percent on November 21; on December 14, the so-called Kosovo army was formed, and ahead of the New Year Pristina expanded the taxes to goods of foreign investors in Serbia, above all affecting Coca-Cola.”
“I am eagerly awaiting the reaction of the United States, because if there is one thing this administration in Washington particularly dislikes, it is protectionism towards American products,” Brnabic said, and announced that she will travel to the United States in January where she will, among other things, visit the Coca-Cola headquarters.
All these moves made by Pristina, according to the prime minister, jeopardized peace and stability in the region – “and the only reason we have a stable situation in the region today is that Serbia has acted responsibly.”
“Serbia did not respond with countermeasures, which I think surprised Pristina the most, they hoped they would start with such measures, that we would retaliate with some countermeasures, that there would again be talk of both sides. That did not happen, they further escalated, we did not respond – so my opinion is that this has backfired on them a bit, first and foremost politically,” the prime minister said.
Brnabic added that she was “particularly pleased that the EU has finally – and to a large extent, the United States and other partners from the international community – seen real face of Pristina.”
“They see what it’s like to sit opposite people whose word you cannot count on and talk about complex, emotional things within the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina,” Brnabic said and stressed that she was eagerly awaiting the full working season after the holidays in Brussels and in Washington, to see their response to Pristina’s latest tax increases targeting their companies.
The prime minister also observed that Ramush Haradinaj wants to present the current situation between Belgrade and Pristina as “Russia vs. America”, and stressed that it was absolutely not the case.
“We are not little Russians, we are Serbs here, but I am sure that even Americans would not like to call the provisional institutions in Pristina little Americans,” Brnabic said, adding that the US would “certainly not like the territory of Kosovo, that is a hub of drugs, weapons, and people trafficking, and has had the highest number Islamic State fighters relative to its population, referred to as Little America.”
She stressed that Serbia’s foreign policy is European integration and EU membership, but that Serbia will not become a part of the EU before it reaches a compromise solution with Pristina.
“The EU will no longer import open issues. If we want to join the EU, we have to solve this in some way, by possibly reaching some compromise. What this compromise is and whether it’s possible at all, we’ll see. I certainly think we are in a great position, because our main negotiator is Aleksandar Vucic, because it is difficult to negotiate with him, he is defending Serbia’s interests in a serious and smart manner,” Brnabic concluded.