Serbia advocates substantial autonomy of Kosovo within existing borders
Vienna, July 24, 2006 - Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said today in his address, during the talks between representatives of Serbs and Kosovo Albanians on the future status of Kosovo-Metohija held at the Niederosterreich palace in Vienna, that Serbia advocates a substantial autonomy of Kosovo-Metohija within the existing state borders.
From left: Serbian President Boris Tadic, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Draskovic
Photo: TanjugThe official website of the Serbian government brings the entire speech of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica."Mister Chairman, Dear Mister Prime Minister of the Government of Austria, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,As Prime Minister of the Government of Serbia and co-president of the negotiating team, I especially want to point to the great importance of the fact that Serbian and ethnic Albanian sides are talking today. The Serbian authorities are strongly committed to reaching a compromise and I am convinced that we share a common belief that patient talks are the only way that can lead us to a solution based on agreement and compromise.Also, I am convinced that we all agree that we have to start from the key fact that the Serbs and ethnic Albanians have lived together for centuries and that we have gone through many different phases throughout history. Today we simply have to accept European standards for finding an appropriate system for living together. In any case, we cannot shun logic and common sense and say that the Serbs and ethnic Albanians should live together within the province, and then not apply the same rule of living together when it is necessary to find a good European solution for the province of Kosovo-Metohija within Serbia. The aim of our talks is undoubtedly to reach a compromising solution for the future status of Kosovo-Metohija. I will use this occasion to thank the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, who assumed extreme responsibility and managed to organise this meeting today. At the same time, I will underline that these talks are being conducted under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council. The framework for our talks has been established by very clear rules. These are, in the first place, the rules and principles prescribed by the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Resolution 1244 of the United Nations Security Council, and all these three documents unambiguously guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and her internationally recognised borders. This is really an important occasion for the Serb and ethnic Albanian sides, together with Mister Ahtisaari in his capacity of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, to examine the future status of the province, respecting, of course, the principles that are the foundation of the United Nations themselves and the entire international order. In addition, I want to point out that apart from these highest principles, the framework and scope of our talks are also clearly established by European standards that prescribe the way in which the issues concerning national minorities have to be solved, such as the case of the ethnic Albanian community in the province. For that reason, among other things, I want to stress that it is good that these talks are held precisely in Vienna, the city which in many aspects represents a symbol of high European standards, and it is also good that Special Envoy Mister Ahtisaari comes from a European state that has given a significant contribution to the overall respect for European rules, values and standards.And finally, apart from the principled commitment to compromise as an always desirable and good solution, all of us at this table have a concrete obligation and responsibility to find that compromise because that clearly results from the guiding principles of the Contact Group, adopted by the Security Council as well. All this, Mister Chairman, leads to the conclusion that the aim of our talks is to find a compromising solution for Kosovo-Metohija, respecting the principles and rules of the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions, European standards and values and guiding principles of the Contact Group. On behalf of my government, I confirm that Serbia wants such a compromising solution above all and that it is firmly resolved to contribute to the building of a stable, peaceful, prosperous and democratically arranged region. Any compromise solution is a just solution at the same time, and that means that both sides have preserved their vital interests. I want to emphasise that Serbia's important and essential interest is that the province develops democratically, and that the ethnic Albanian, Serb and all other communities in Kosovo-Metohija go ahead in many aspects.On the other hand, I am not aware, and I suppose, neither are you, of a case in European experience so far that a new state has been formed on the territory of a democratic state. We all know that there is not a single precedent in European history which could serve as an argument for taking away 15% of Serbia's territory, for changing Serbia's internationally recognised borders against her will, and for dismembering precisely Serbia, of all democratic states in Europe. It is good to clearly hear at this table Serbia's position that it will not accept that another state be made on 15% of its territory. Our firm position is that everyone should forget the idea that for the future status of Kosovo-Metohija it is possible to find a solution that would be contrary to European standards, alien to European experience and contrary to the principles of international law.Mister Chairman, Serbia is determined to find a European solution and it is whole-heartedly ready to grant substantial autonomy to the ethnic Albanian community in the province. I will use this opportunity to call on the ethnic Albanian community to build together with us a new, truly substantial autonomy for Kosovo-Metohija, based on democratic European principles and values. Today, for the first time in the long history of our relations, we have an opportunity to build European experience and European standards into the common future of the province. The fact is that the province of Kosovo-Metohija has never been organised on the basis of firm democratic principles that would serve as a foundation of substantial autonomy. In the name of the aspiration for a compromising solution, I am underlining that democratic Serbia is capable and ready today to secure the widest, substantial autonomy for Kosovo-Metohija, which would, I am convinced, guarantee a stable, peaceful and democratic development of the province, Serbia and the entire region. Substantial autonomy for Kosovo-Metohija has to be guaranteed and made concrete by a constitutional solution, which would be a result of a true constitutional agreement. If such a constitutional agreement for Kosovo-Metohija was not reached during the entire last century and even at the beginning of this one, and if during history we have had difficult periods lacking mutual understanding, conflicts and persecution because of that, these negotiations should be a real start of a qualitatively completely new way of solving the basic constitutional issues, that is, the issue of constitutional organisation of Kosovo-Metohija by agreement. The constitution of each country is a unity of two crucial things: general constitutional principles typical of modern constitutionality, and specific constitutional solutions that are appropriate for given historical conditions and circumstances. There, where it has been a herald and protector of democracy and human rights, the constitution has always been a unity of universal values of modern times and a guarantee for those particularities that are typical for a concrete state and society. This is especially the case in the modern European states which have a complex ethnic, religious, cultural or some other composition, and which managed to keep such complexity and organise it through active constitutional solutions.
Our proposition, which I will lay out in short here (the text of our platform has been submitted and it is already well-known), is based precisely on the rich European tradition of a comprehensive and democratic resolution of deep, long-lasting and difficult disputes within a state. The framework of the solution we propose seeks constitutional mechanisms and guarantees in the specific circumstances of Serbia and Kosovo-Metohija, in an effort to contribute to an outcome that will be not only democratic, but also acceptable for both sides, as well as lasting and desirable from a wider international aspect. The essence of this proposal is that principles and concrete solutions, which we should figure out during the negotiating process, be not only included among the highest constitutional obligations of Serbia and Kosovo-Metohija, but internationally guaranteed as well. As I have already stressed, I am talking about that form of the constitutional solution for Kosovo-Metohija within Serbia that we call substantial autonomy. It would be guaranteed by the General Agreement and the Constitution of Serbia, which would contain its basic principles.The general approach to the substantial autonomy illustrates well the way in which our constitutional proposal would solve this important constitutional question. The province would independently carry out the duties and tasks necessary for its internal economic, social and cultural development, and Kosovo could assume the greatest part of responsibility for its economic development and welfare of its citizens. As part of its independent jurisdictions, the province would have financial autonomy, which entails tax policy, public revenue policy, investment and expenditure. According to this concept of dividing jurisdiction, those functions would belong to Serbia which, ensue from its constitutional structure. These areas of jurisdiction are related to Serbia’s role in international relations as a sovereign state, above all foreign affairs and border control. The function of defence would not be carried out in the province, because the province, as has been said in President Tadic’s speech, would be demilitarized. Serbia would keep a certain number of protective functions – in the areas of basic law, in protection of its religious and cultural heritage, and in the area of special customs inspection. Of course, it is understood that Serbia and the province of Kosovo-Metohija will make progress in the process of stabilisation and association, which means that we will be right in assuming that under new conditions of peace and security, there will necessarily be close contact when it comes to monetary and customs policy.The aim of such a division of jurisdiction is definitely not to establish two completely separate, parallel systems of authority and management, connected only by the thin link of external borders. To the contrary, the constitution would establish areas of cooperation between Belgrade and the province with the aim to removing every obstacle in free movement of people, goods, capital and services. Apart from that, special forms of cooperation would be established in individual sectors such as banking and transaction of payments, harmonisation of tax policy, infrastructure systems and communications, which would substantially contribute to economic development and accelerate the process of European integration. The constitutional jurisdiction of Kosovo-Metohija would be implemented by legislative institutions and executive and court authorities of the province. These bodies would be freely elected by citizens of Kosovo-Metohija and, in accordance with that, Kosovo-Metohija would get a parliament elected through elections that will follow directly. Because of the specific ethnic structure of the province, the parliament would have a guaranteed in advance number of members representing Serbs and other non-Albanian communities. When it comes to parliamentary decisions concerning the vital interests of the Serb community, including the adoption of laws in the province, it should be kept in mind that a decision may not be established if the majority of Serb members of parliament do not vote for it.Other institutions of the province, the government and courts, as well as public administration, through responsible work should contribute to realsing the concept of substantial autonomy for Kosovo-Metohija. Starting from the fact that in present times international cooperation significantly exceeds the usual international relations, and that international relations do not imply just the classic foreign policy, we consider that Kosovo-Metohija can and should establish international cooperation in all areas of its constitutional jurisdiction. Partners of the province in such cooperation could be states, regions and international organisations as long as international subjectivity is not required for such relations. For this type of cooperation with subnational entities, in today’s world of developed communications, and especially in accordance with the practice of European integration, we have advanced standards already. They concern not just mutual legal and contractual relations between partners in cooperation but also the obligations of the subnational entity towards its state. The proposal of a constitutional solution for the future status of Kosovo-Metohija, which I have presented in its basic outlines, is as a proposal open in the highest degree. In case agreement regarding it cannot be reached, it can certainly be amended through consent, with new ideas and better solutions, which is without doubt the path towards the agreement we are seeking. Mister Chairman, Serbia was and still is a reliable partner of the international community, represented by the Security Council and the Contact Group, in its efforts to reach a just solution, which would secure stability, prosperity and the development of democracy in the province and in Serbia. It must be clear to everyone that a compromise solution is also in the vital interest of stability and the future of democratic order in the Balkans. I am convinced, that it is most important that any thought of committing any form of violence, physical or legal, should be firmly excluded, and the international community is mainly responsible that this should not occur. The solution, clearly put, lies in respecting the principles of international law, basic justice and, obviously, in giving due importance to the basic interests of Serbs as well as ethnic-Albanians in the province. I want to assure all present that Serbia has enough experience in state-building that it can as a European democratic state accept and provide the widest degree of autonomy to the province. It also has enough state-building experience to not allow that which not a single European democracy will allow, and that is the creation of another state on its territory.Mister Chairman, the purpose behind my speech is above all to clearly convey that Serbia is ready for agreement and a compromise solution. We see that as the only way because we are aware of the fact that any other way would inevitably create deeper long-term problems. Talks, I am convinced, have finally begun in earnest and it is most important that after today’s extraordinarily important exchange on positions, the upcoming rounds are carefully prepared. We are all no doubt conscious of the importance of time and the need, in the interest of all, to reach an agreement as soon as possible. However I call upon you to be cautious against consequences of senselessly short and artificially imposed deadlines. I am convinced that we can find a way out through joint good will and with readiness to respect principles of international law and fundamental democratic values. On behalf of the Serbian government and citizens of my country, I confirm that it is with such good will and such readiness that Serbia offers the chance of a compromise solution,” said the Serbian Prime Minister in his address.
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25 July 2006
Serbia advocates substantial autonomy of Kosovo within existing borders