Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s leader Hashim Thaci are set to hold talks during a meeting hosted by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels on Thursday, discussing progress in reconciliation negotiations between the two sides.
On July 3, during an informal meeting with Mogherini, Vucic and Thaci agreed to start working on a new phase of reconciliation talks between Belgrade and Pristina.
Mogherini, along with the two presidents, is set to review the implementation of agreements reached during the meeting.
Our questions will give them headache," Vucic says
President Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that Serbia "will not weaken, as some would want it to, but will grow stronger."
Vucic said Thursday's meeting in Brussels with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci would be "influenced" by the arrest of Bogdan Mitrovic.
Vucic also said that he would go to Brussels to talk to Thaci, because he "does not see another way to solve the problem except through conversation."
The president then asked "how he can expect normal and civilized talks after the brutal arrest of Mitrovic," who was in Kosovo with his family and a group of other displaced Serbs to visit his home and a demolished Serbian church in the village of Musutiste.
"Our questions will give them a headache, let's see what they think they will do," Vucic said, adding that it was "his job to talk in Brussels, but also to take care of all citizens, children, and even Mitrovic."
"They arrested a 75-year-old man. 20 incredibly brave heroes showed up in full military gear - and Serbia should say, 'you did very well'," Vucic said, referring to Mitrovic's arrest carried out by special forces of the Kosovo police. He also recalled that Ramush Haradinaj, who "personally participated in crimes," was released in France earlier in the year.
The president added that he was "personally assured" that there was no indication Mitrovic had done anything wrong.
Speaking to reporters in Leskovac, southern Serbia, Vucic said he supported the decision of Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Veljko Odalovic - who also heads Serbia's Commission on Missing Persons - to walk out of a meeting in Croatia, after a Croatian official who hosted the gathering spoke insultingly about Serbia.
"I called Odalovic and said that it was good that he was able to protect the dignity of Serbia, but I said that he should have responded more strongly, and say to their face everything he thinks about the crimes they committed against Serbs in various places," he said.
According to Vucic, "the situation is very difficult for us, because some people think that it is always the moment and the opportunity to take it out on the Serbs - when they have no arguments for their policy."
"What happened in Croatia makes me wonder what kind of Serbia it is that some would be satisfied with," he continued.
"Is it a powerless Serbia, weak, on its knees, or would it satisfy them if Serbia did not exist? Serbia will not be getting weaker, either economically, military, or politically - and will be ever stronger. That is something that will bring us problems, and relations where some will constantly seek from us to be ashamed of ourselves," Vucic said.
He said that Serbia has nothing to be ashamed of, and above all not its past - something that "others," however, should be.
"Don't let us remind almost everyone in our surroundings of the Nazi past, and the Central Powers in the First World War, and all other things after that. We only want peace and stability, we are not after anyone," the president underlined.
According to Vucic, "this behavior only shows how much anxiety there is among many who see that Serbia, by their measure, is not sufficiently weak and small, degraded and demeaned."
"You will not watch that movie," Vucic said, adding that he was "interested in what the foreign friends will say about the arrest in Kosovo, as well as the behavior of Croatia."
"I will wait all night for our friends, to see if there is anyone else who has something to say to Serbia, and is proud of their Ustasha past," he stressed.
Vucic also remarked that he recently came under fire in Croatia for suggesting to a group of Serb children from Croatia, who visited the Presidency in Belgrade, to consider supporting "bigger clubs, such as (Serbia's) Red Star or Partizan."
"Aren't Red Star and Partizan big clubs, bigger than Dinamo and other Croatian clubs? Should it be forbidden to children to support the bigger Serbian clubs? They created a topic out of this - but not from the Ustasha sign in Jasenovac," said Vucic.
The president then sarcastically remarked that he had committed "a terrible crime" and was "waiting to be summoned to The Hague."
"My biggest crime is that I said that besides the cake, they would get books, because they can read Cyrillic," Vucic underlined.
The president also announced that the state will invest in protecting the Cyrillic alphabet, the Serb identity, and would "fight peacefully" for their preservation everywhere.
"The fact that they insult me will not prevent me from doing so. According to all international legal acts, we have the right to do it," Vucic concluded.
In 2008, Kosovar Albanian groups in Pristina unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia, and over 100 UN member states officially recognized Kosovo. However, Serbia, alongside Russia, China, Israel and several other countries, does not recognize Kosovo’s independence. About 100,000 Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija live in the north of the province and several enclaves in its south.
In 2011, the European Union persuaded Serbia to begin cooperating with Kosovo. This led to the signing of the Brussels Agreement on normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo in 2013, and a subsequent proposal for forming the Community of Serb Municipalities, a self-governing association of the Serb-dominated regions of Kosovo.
The last official round of Belgrade-Pristina talks was held in February.