Appearing as a guest in Radio Belgrade's "In Focus" programme, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica confirmed that discussions on the status of Kosovo-Metohija would begin in 2005, but said he was certain the process would be a lengthy one. The issue of the status invariably broaches the issue of the unfulfilled Standards and the terrible violence in the province which cannot be resolved with a single international conference, Kostunica believes.
[Correspondent] Kostunica believes that the government is on the best path of resolving with UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] the problem of power supplies. He nevertheless says that he drew the attention of UNMIK officials to the fact that Serbia was still paying off the province's debt, that property relations have not been resolved, and that not a single ethnically-motivated murder in Kosovo has been solved, even after 17 March. All this implies that we are far from a conference on the status of the province.
[Kostunica] If Standards should come before the status, then an international conference is premature. If we have decided to erase the Standards, if human rights do not mean anything, or if we are making an exception in the case of Kosovo-Metohija, then we can discuss many things with the worst possible consequences for the stability and peace in the region.
[Correspondent] Direct elections for the Serbia and Montenegro [SCG] Assembly are inevitable in the new year, because that is the agreement reached by Belgrade, Podgorica and Brussels, the prime minister said decisively.
[Kostunica] Time is running out for all those who are trying simply to prove that regulations, even the highest regulations such as the constitution, in this case the Constitutional Charter, are passed only to be violated or to be toyed with. I believe this is a situation that represents a serious challenge to the EU.
[Correspondent] There is no need to form a constitutional assembly in order to pass the new Serbian constitution, Kostunica believes.
[Kostunica] I believe that we can get the necessary majority in the Serbian Assembly, a two-thirds majority.
[Correspondent] The government has started cooperating with The Hague [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia - ICTY] in the most favourable manner. Another two indictees have voluntarily surrendered to The Hague, Kostunica recalled.
[Kostunica] I am dreaming of the day, or hour, when, in a meeting with foreign delegations, the delegations of international organizations, no one brings up The Hague, not even as a thing of the past.
[Correspondent] The next year will bring many challenges, but also the resolution of many issues, the prime minister concluded, saying to citizens that 2005 would be a year of stability and of dealing with corruption.