Serbian PM blocks EU pact over Kosovo, despite vote
Belgrade power broker Vojislav Kostunica is shaking the newly elected government over Kosovo.
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Belgrade sources say Kostunica is so private that even his inner circle does not know his real thoughts. He is not seen at social events or Belgrade's soccer stadium. His wife has ties to a high-ranking Serbian Orthodox church figure. Kostunica's father fought in World War II with the Chetniks – a guerrilla group of Serb patriots – not with Tito's multiethnic Partisans – a formative fact. Kostunica is famously dour. "[He] always looks like he's a bit fed up with everything, but that's just him," says one European diplomat.Skip to next paragraph
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Significantly, Kostunica has ruled out violence. "People call him a 'little Milosevic,' but I don't think that is fair," says Dejan Anastasijevic, a columnist for the weekly Breme. "He has democratic credentials. He handed over a dozen generals to The Hague. Our press is freer than before.... [H]e hasn't advocated violence, and that is where many draw the line."
Balkan analysts note that while Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia keeps the democratic coalition intact, his underlying policies aid the Radical Party. "Nikolic and the radicals prosper greatly under Kostunica," says James Hooper, a former US diplomat. "Kostunica believes in the solutions of Nikolic on Kosovo, minus the violence needed to achieve those aims. As soon as [former Prime Minister Zoran] Djinjic was killed, Kostunica dismantled all the reforms he established."
Tadic's reelection Sunday was seen as a setback for Kostunica. Without Tadic, Kostunica could easily control the democrats, sources say, and become the man Europe deals with on foreign affairs. Days before the polls, Kostunica tried to force Tadic to agree to nullify all EU treaty plans, Tadic's platform, if the EU sent a police mission to Kosovo, as it has voted to do. Tadic refused.
Still pursuing this aim, Kostunica has Serb politics at a standstill. He won't let the government meet, since Tadic ministers would approve the EU deal. Tadic won't let parliament meet, fearing that Kostunica will create a new coalition of radicals. Kostunica said parliament must "urgently" meet for reasons of national security, before "Albanian separatists … supported by the US and EU … declare independence unilaterally" in Kosovo.
Kostunica's tactics are "not simply rhetoric," says former US Ambassador to Serbia William Montgomery, who lives here.
In one sense, Kostunica is correct about the EU's intent, analysts say. While rarely linked explicitly, the understanding in Europe after a decade of war led by Milosevic's Serbia and ended by NATO, is that Kosovo would be independent and Serbia would be a member of the EU. That was the script until last year.
Critics say that if Europe and the US quickly accepted the desire by Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian community for independence after the war, when Serbs were tired of Milosevic, rather than deal with it nine years later in tandem with Serbia's EU status, the issue would be moot.
Kostunica's unofficial foreign policy harks back to that of Tito's Yugoslavia – balancing between East and West. He has secured Vladimir Putin's veto on Kosovo independence in the UN Security Council. Among other deals, Kostunica last month arranged to sell Serbia's oil and gas monopoly to Russia's Gazprom.