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Interview with Vojislav Kostunica

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has spoken to Russia Today about his country's prospects. He says it can only become part of the European Union, if Kosovo is a part of Serbia.

Russia Today: What is your impression of Dmitry Medvedev's visit and of his position on Kosovo?

Vojislav Kostunica: Mr. Medvedev's visit is very important for both, Serbia and Russia and Russian-Serbian relations. It came at the right moment; For two years, Serbia and Russia have been fighting together for something that is not only the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia that means keeping Kosovo within Serbia, but also for truly protecting international order and some basic international law principles, starting with the UN Charter and Resolution 1244. So, there was for quite a long period of time something that was coordinated or, better to say, common policy of Russia and Serbia on the issue of Kosovo. And the issue of Kosovo tends to be one of the most important global issues. So, the Deputy Prime Minister's visit to Belgrade at this moment was very important to make a certain summary of what we have done up to now and to see what our next steps are. We agreed that the cooperation between Russia and Serbia was important up to the February 17, when there came this unilateral declaration of independence and its recognition by a few states, starting with the United States. But it's even more important after February 17, when a truly international law has been violated.

There exists a sort of necessity to work together in the Security Council, generally in many multilateral organizations and to follow and support, if I may say so, some sort of movement for the respect – it sounds strange – for the respect of the UN Charter, because Russia, China, India, a few EU member states like Spain, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus are in favor of the full respect of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act guaranteeing to any state its territorial integrity and sovereignty, and why of course Serbia should be an exception to that rule?

So that's why this visit was important. It was also important in terms of our economic cooperation, cooperation in the energy sector. We are making the next step following the agreement between Gazprom and SerbiaGas on the making of the gas line to Serbia.

Of course, we discussed other issues concerning our economic cooperation. We are looking forward and really want to welcome Russian companies to Serbia to invest here. Already Russian banks are going to Serbia. We are going actually to have this complete cooperation, and when it comes to culture, it is very important and we'd really like to see Russian students getting fellowships to study in Serbia and Serbian getting fellowships from the Russian government to study in Russia.

We should also think of actually getting rid of visas when it comes to communication between the two countries. Generally, this visit was very important, having on mind all these issues that we have in common, not only when it comes to political communications and economics and so on. For years, one had the impression that what goes on is political cooperation. Now there is some balance when it comes to economy and issues like that.

Joining the EU, Serbia might be actually asked to accept Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence. What would be your reaction to that and would you think President Tadic might do?

Well, actually, Serbia articulated its interest in EU membership many years ago and has overcome all the obstacles that had been set by the EU itself – very serious steps. In certain ways, when it comes to standards and administrative capacities, these might be even above some older EU members. But for us, the things are clear – when it comes to any further negotiations on EU membership, we must make it quite clear what is the territory of Serbia that EU recognizes, so it means for us only Serbia with Kosovo as its constituent party. Some think that might be a base ground for further negotiations with the European Union.

Does that mean that, given the position of the majority of the EU states, Serbia will not be joining the EU?

Well, truly, that is our position that the territorial integrity of Serbia is more than important. Kosovo is not just the matter of wholeness of Serbia and its territorial integrity; it's a very important part of Serbia and it's something that has to do with Serbian identity, and maybe the best proof for that is that Serbs, wherever they live – in Montenegro or in the Republika of Srpska or in Bosnia and Herzegovina – throughout the world our Diaspora reacted to this dismemberment of Serbia and the unilateral declaration of independence.

But we all know that President Tadic is very pro-European. How does that work?

We shall see in this new situation. Even before the elections the Democratic Party of Serbia made it quite clear that we have to have quite a clear position when it comes to further negotiations. We do not have anything against those negotiations, but there are two obstacles. First is – What is Serbia? For us, Serbia includes Kosovo for sure; it is according to our constitution. On the other hand, we have another problem with the European Union; it is the European civil mission that has been actually decided upon coming to Kosovo, which, in that way, also violates some territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia, because many members of the EU already recognized the independence of Kosovo.

So, we have these two problems to solve, and for me it's quite a principal matter. That's something that Serbia cannot accept by any means. By 'any means' I think of all these diplomatic measures, all this legal struggle, all these suits that we have been thinking about. Serbia cannot actually accept to be the only (eventually) EU member whose territorial integrity is not recognized. And it's quite clear: when our negotiations started with the EU, Serbia was recognized as a whole state, including Kosovo, and it's like that. So it's really a matter of principle, and there should be no calculations when it comes to that.

As we have just said, many states have already recognised Kosovo, and Kosovo announces itself as a new state. Is there a chance that, in that situation, it develops like that, that Serbia might try and retain at least the northern part, which is primarily inhabited by Serbs?

Well, actually, as I said once again, I use the expression 'principal approach to Kosovo'. The principal approach means that Serbia defends not only Kosovo, but defends this principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty. By actually thinking of only a part of Kosovo, any sort of division of Kosovo, Serbia will not follow anymore something that from the very beginning was at the basis of our approach. The territorial integrity of Serbia – any sort of division of Kosovo is against that. So, we'll stay to that; it is quite clear, and we'll always insist on that. Our most efficient device, or weapon in this struggle was this legality and insistence on the territorial integrity of Serbia.

Aren't you afraid that, given the position of the United States and the opinions of the members of EU, you might lose Kosovo the Albanian parts and the Serbian part?

We'll never use Kosovo, because Serbia can never use something that belongs to it. For us it is a struggle that has started. We had periods in our history when Kosovo was lost for not a part of Serbia. And in some strange way, in those periods, something that in Serbian integrity was more clearly and strongly defined. This is one of the challenges. I'm more than sure that as long as we exist as a nation, Kosovo be a part of Serbia. And there are some cases like that in the history of some other nations.

How long will the ambassadors from the countries that recognized Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence remain in Serbia for consultations?

Actually, they will remain for certain periods of time, because we do need to see how things are developing. Something that we are encouraged by is that this first wave of recognition of independence of Kosovo has for the moment stopped. And some nations that fought for the recognition of the independence of Kosovo now are hesitating, are postponing that decision. Tell something that was nearly more than sure fact that at the very beginning, in the first week it was expected that 40 countries would recognize Kosovo including among them 17 European countries. Now we have as a whole, about 17 countries that had recognized Kosovo and that's all. So we should see how things will be develop.

We'll think about making some of these diplomatic measures against the countries that recognize Kosovo, even stronger. Because our experiences with this firm answer of Serbia, when it comes to the reaction of our public, Serb's Diaspora, many countries that are supporting Serbia, many intellectual self-reputation, many politicians in the world. This enthusiasm for recognizing independent, Kosovo has somehow decreased.

Has Serbia ever considered breaking diplomatic relations with the countries that recognized Kosovo as a new state?

Well, actually a sort of plan has been prepared by government and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have all possible diplomatic measures like in some textbook. And we have at this moment decided that this measure would be recalling our ambassadors. And we are thinking at some other measures. That is very important that we are thinking about some legal suites before the international court of justice, maybe some domestic courts, that something that can be moved by the citizens of the countries that recognize Kosovo. So, there is a quite a number of measures that we are thinking about, because we see the reaction of our public. And these measures have contributed to this resistance against something that for sure is a violation of international law.

What are those measures that we're talking about? Are we to expect any economic sanctions on Kosovo?

Well, actually, we have been thinking about these usual diplomatic measures. What are the things are developing:and one cannot support what will be in the next few days. What is important is for sure, there will be no normalization of relations with this country, that recognize Kosovo. As long as something has not been changed, as long as there's not some sort of making decision of the recognition of independence of Kosovo. As long as there is a chance for real negotiations have been given. So there would be no normalization of relations. Of course, on the other hand.sort of economical co-operations will go on. I wouldn't speak about any concrete measures, what is important. The question is not for me. It's for someone else. For someone that is behind this recognition of unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo.

Everyone thought that the moment Serbia is dismembered and Kosovo has turned to some sort of independence that everything would remain the same. It's impossible. I'm not going into details but it is simply not possible.