Romania does not condition the adoption of Serbia’s EU association agreement with the situation of national minorities, president said while on a trip to Belgrade on Tuesday.
Romania has not recognised and is not recognising Kosovo’s independence and there are no analyses at the moment showing that the country might or could change its mind, President Traian Basescu said on the first day of his two-day visit to Serbia.
“A very important thing to us has to do with developments in the Serbian province Kosovo. Romania has not recognised and is not recognising Kosovo’s independence and we think there must be a negotiated solution, in which Serbs in Kosovo would have the feeling that Serbian institutions serve and protect them,” Basescu said during a joint press statement with his Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic, according to Mediafax.
The president added that Romania “maintains the stance it has had since the dispute began.” “We have no positive conditions for Kosovo,” he said. Kosovo, which declared independence in February 2008, has been recognised by 22 EU countries and a total of 85 United Nations members.
After talks with Tadic, Basescu said he and his Serbian counterpart also discussed the issue of national minorities, in particular the situation of Vlachs. Describing the bilateral talks on the matter as “very good,” the president underlined that all those who declare themselves of Romanian origin “clearly” must benefit from the right of having their culture and language respected.
“As friends, we discussed national minorities and the matter of Vlachs in our country. There are Serbian citizens who declare themselves as Vlachs, there are others who declare themselves Romanians and there are citizens who think Romanians are Vlachs. We respect our citizens’ rights and, in agreement with European standard, they can declare what ethnicity they want. This also implies complete protection of their language, and we understand our Romanian friends’ concern with the issue,” Tadic said. The Serbian president added that he is not familiar with Romanian legislation on minorities’ rights, but underlined that he welcomes any information which can help enrich Serbian legislation in the field.
Basescu thanked Tadic for the “constructive approach” of Serbian authorities over this matter. “I want you to know that we are familiar with the fact a part of Vlachs declare themselves Romanians, while others do not recognise this origin, but we don’t force anybody to have an option in this case.
At the same time, it’s clear that those who claim Romanian origins must have the right to have their language and culture respected,” Basescu said.
In answer to a Serbian journalist’s question, Basescu also gave assurances that Romania does not condition the adoption of Serbia’s European Union Association Agreement on the matter of national minorities. Bucharest does not condition its backing on “one problem or another, so not on the Vlach problem either.”
“Actually, it wouldn’t even be possible, today is November 1 and the European Council will be held on December 9, so there’s not enough time to solve the Vlach problem, which I admit, we have been discussing for several years. We have raised and will continue to raise the problem of Vlachs who declare themselves Romanian. There is no connection between ratification of the association agreement and the Vlach problem,” Basescu said. The European Council will convene on December 9 to decide on Serbia’s candidate country status.
Basescu explained that the Romanian Chamber of Deputies has already ratified Serbia’s Association Agreement with the European Union and voiced hope that the Senate will do the same in time, so that next month, Romania “can be a full supporter” of its neighbour’s EU accession bid.
In the context, Basescu reassured Tadic of Romania’s unreserved support for Serbia’s European integration. “In all our talks with European and NATO partners, we insist that Serbia is the key to peace in the Balkans. This is why we believe Serbia must become a member of the EU and the Euro-Atlantic space in general as soon as possible, when it meets accession conditions,” Basescu said. Tadic gave assurances that his country will continue necessary reforms to join the EU and voiced optimism about the European Council’s decision on candidate status for Serbia next month.
Besides talks with Tadic, Basescu was also scheduled to meet with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic and the speaker of Parliament, Slavica Dukic Dejanovic.
His visit’s agenda also included a meeting with members of the Romanian community in Serbia. Today, he will travel to Timoc Valley, which is largely inhabited by Romanians. There, he will meet with local authorities of Negotin, members of the Romanian community and representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Parish in Malainita, according to a press release from the presidential administration.
Basescu’s delegation in Serbia includes Economy Minister Ion Ariton and Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi, along with several presidential aides. Ariton too was scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his Serbian counterpart yesterday.