Vučić discusses Kosovo deal, implementation, deadlinesJournalist: Tatjana Aleksić
First Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Aleksandar Vučić, who is the leader of the ruling Serb Progressives (SNS), was interviewed by B92 on May 1. Below is the transcript of the interview.
B92: Mr. Vučić, how did the talks with the Serbs from northern Kosovo go?
Vučić: We did not reach an agreement and it is obvious that there is no will to hold the referendum, because, I think it is clear to everyone how the people and the citizens would declare themselves. We cannot change the Serbs in the north and we must work with our people, and will continue to work. In the coming days I expect these talks to be continued, and to see, since it is completely clear that the (Brussels) agreement will be in force, to see how and in what way we should go to the implementation.
B92: Does that mean that the referendum is no longer an option?
Vučić: Judging by what they offered us, you know, I said it during the press conference as well, judging by what they brought to us, those five, six conditions, it is absolutely clear that they do not want such a referendum.
B92: Serbs from northern Kosovo say that the plan of implementation is worse than the agreement itself. How do you intend to implement that plan if you do not have the support of the leaders from northern Kosovo?
Vučić: Well it's not easy, but we must find a solution. If somebody from the government signs something and parliament accepts it then it's clear these things will be implemented. It's only a matter of seeing how to do it in agreement with our people, not against the will of our people. There is always a solution to everything and there is a sufficient number of ways to reach that solution. It seems to me that more and more people in northern Kosovo understand and know that some marginal groups cannot change the will of the people in Serbia and change the authorities in Serbia, although some thought they could in the first days. We will talk to them, to respect them, we understand their fears.
We are showing this through great patience, tolerance, even by not responding to a dirty campaign led against us. Because we consider that to be responsible behavior. And I expect that in line with this, the talks and agreement will continue. On the other hand, some in Brussels must know that all the things they did not manage to put in the agreement and which they are now trying to do through the implementation plan will not pass. If somebody wants to implement something, they must implement what is written in the agreement, not what they wanted, but did not manage to put in the agreement. That implementation plan is not done. It's a proposal of the Albanian side and nothing more than that. We did not accept the real plan, we did not receive it.
B92: What will it look like if you start implementing the agreement without the people who are against it, and who are the heads of municipalities?
Vučić: I cannot talk about everything completely openly. We will have another meeting with these people, and we will present our plan to them. We awaited their answer and I knew in a way that they would essentially be against the referendum. If they are honest they will admit to it in that way. So, that's now as if we were asking the question, "are you in favor of there being no Serbian institutions?", which is not true, or, "are you in favor of Kosovo's independence?", which is also not true - it is clear that somebody in fact does not want the referendum at all.
B92: Are we once again in a race against time?
Vučić: We are in a race against time all the time and we will not lose that time. If you're asking whether Serbia will do everything to get a date (for the start of EU accession talks)... It will do everything, without destroying its statehood.
B92: Does that mean that the agreement should be implemented by the end of June?
Vučić: No, it is absolutely impossible that it will be completely implemented. It's madness for someone to expect that from Serbia, I think they expect the implementation plan by June 25, before the final report comes out. I hope we will arrive to the plan, but we need the cooperation of the Serbs from Kosovo for the implementation plan.
B92: You announced a visit to Kosovo. When will that take place?
Vučić: I expect this after the meeting with the Serbs from Kosovo. I will certainly go to Kosovo and Metohija between May 7 and 12.
B92: Has the idea about a government reshuffle been abandoned?
Vučić: Do tell, when are we even supposed to deal with that? When was there a chance to talk about that? I'm sure that in the next ten or so days nobody in Serbia will discuss that. Whether we will afterwards - we will, and we have no problem with making an analysis. We made internal analyses of public enterprises directors, and ministers' performance, which was suggested by our party (SNS), and we will go before the Main Board with that, and then let the party members decide what they think about their work.
B92: And elections are not something that is being considered?
Vučić: It is not something that is being thought about, we do not think Serbia needs it at this moment. Will it be a topic in some ten days because of some new, strange situation - that can never be ruled out in Serbia. Is it something that the Serbian citizens want? Well, no.
B92: What is happening with the fight against corruption and crime? You previously announced that investigations into the 24 controversial privatizations would be complete.
Vučić: The solving of two or three cases from that list will follow very soon.. Also, another case that is not on the list, and is otherwise big and known publicly, and there have been objections because it was not solved.
B92: This interview is conducted during the Labor Day holiday. Workers say they are disenfranchised, there is record unemployment. A year ago you were building your election campaign not around big political topics, but on the need to create more jobs. Has the government done enough to solve that issue?
Vučić: Unemployment is not record-high, it is huge, but not record-high. I don't think it's higher compared to a year ago. It's no secret workers have hard lives. We are dedicated to solving the problem, to fighting corruption, that is, to creating the conditions for the country to be decent and normal, for the workers, for the investors. We are working on it, it has not been possible to completely dedicate ourselves to that in these seven or eight months, but some things have been done. The downward spiral related to unemployment has been halted, it seems to me. In the coming period, too, that will be the key result by which you will be able to measure whether we achieved something.
B92: Will the Air Force get new jets?
Vučić: The Air Force and the Anti-Air Defense will be modernized after more than two decades. I am convinced we will essentially improve both the equipment and weapons that the military has at its disposal.
B92: When you say "modernized" - does that mean overhauling the old, or buying new aircraft?
Vučić: Some will be overhauled, we will also have some new aircraft, some new radar systems, that is what our country needs.