By Jan Richter
The Serbian province of Kosovo is expected to declare independence from Serbia early this year. The Czech foreign policy on this hot issue has been following the moderate attitude of the European Union calling for an agreement between the Serbian government and Kosovo’s Albanian majority. But the lower house of the Czech Parliament might push for a change in the Czech stance. An opposition MP wants a resolution passed denouncing a unilateral declaration of independence for Kosovo.
After the UN Security Council failed in December to reach a compromise on the issue of the status of the Serbian province of Kosovo, the European Union assumed a leading role in implementing a solution. Martin Povejšil, the political director at the Czech Foreign Ministry, sums up the Czech position on the issue of Kosovo’s independence.
“We have been looking at the issue of how to define the status of Kosovo within the European Union as its members. We have been trying to keep the Czech Republic in the mainstream of the EU. The status of Kosovo obviously needs an urgent solution because the situation there, as it is, is untenable in the long run. It seems that we are approaching a date when unilateral independence will be declared. When we have this document we will study it very carefully and will then decide on further actions of the Czech government, taking of course into account the European debate on that issue.”
An opposition MP Katerina Konecná, of the Communist Party, wants to change this. She says she will motion a resolution in the Chamber of Deputies denouncing any unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo’s Albanians.
“Kosovo as such has always belonged to Serbia. If this is not respected, we are really worried that – apart from damaging Serbia – a wave of similar actions in other European countries might break out. This is very dangerous at a time when Europe wants to share a common foreign policy and take common measures in its foreign policy.”
The Social Democrats, the stronger of the two opposition parties in the Czech parliament’s lower house, share a similar view citing international guarantees given to Serbia by the EU and NATO over territorial integrity. Social Democrat Jan Hamácek is the head of the Chamber of Deputies’ Foreign Affair Committee.
“We have issued a statement calling for further negotiations on the matter. The statement does not support any unilateral declaration of independence. The Czech Social Democrats are against it.”
In their effort to change the official Czech position on Kosovo, the opposition might find unexpected allies in the MPs of the strongest party of the house, the coalition Civic Democrats. Jan Vidím is one of them.
“I am personally very sceptical with regard to a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo Albanians. If the Chamber of Deputies gets to vote on a resolution rejecting this declaration, I might well support it.”
Communist MP Katerina Konecná wants to put the vote on the agenda of Parliament’s extraordinary session on January 15, before a European Union envoy visits Kosovo at the end of the month. If passed, the opposition hopes the motion would change the Czech policy on an independent Kosovo. But Martin Povejšil, of the Foreign Ministry, says under the Czech constitution, it will still be up to the government to decide.
“Parliament will not be able to change the constitution in this respect. Legally, the government will still have the authority to decide on a possible recognition or non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence. Any parliamentary stance on that issue will of course have its political impact but it will not limit the constitutionally-given powers of the cabinet.”