14 November 2006

EU dismisses Serbian constitution's claim to sovereignty over Kosovo

Deutsche Presse Agentur, Monday October 30, 2006


Brussels- The European Union on Monday dismissed references to Belgrade's sovereignty over the breakaway province of Kosovo contained in the new Serbian constitution voted for over the weekend. A spokeswoman for the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - said the future status of Kosovo "was a separate matter" which could only be decided as part of negotiations being conducted by the United Nations special envoy Martii Ahtisaari.


She added that there was a "contradiction" between Serbia's claiming of sovereignty over Kosovo and the fact that the voters' list used for the constitutional referendum dated back to 2001 and did not include a majority of the province's population.


However, the commission said it welcomed preliminary reports on the "orderly conduct" of the referendum and the replacement of the "outdated constitution" by a new one.


The commission had also taken note of "various positions on the contents of the constitution," the spokeswoman added.


A majority of Serbs backed the new constitution in a referendum over the weekend. According to preliminary official figures, 52.3 per cent of the 6.63 million voters cast their ballots in favour of the new constitution.


But the ethnic-Albanian population in Kosovo boycotted the referendum.


Kosovo has been run by the UN since 1999, when NATO intervened to stop a Serb crackdown against the ethnic-Albanian population. The new Serbian constitution includes a preamble affirming Serbia's claim over the breakaway province.


Talks between Belgrade and Pristina leaders on the future status of Kosovo were launched early in 2006 by the United Nations but have so far failed to make progress.