By Aleksandar Mitic, Belgrade correspondent
Dozens of thousands of Serbs protested on Monday in Belgrade and northern Kosovska Mitrovica against the EU-sponsored agreement with the Kosovo Albanian authorities in Pristina, while the Orthodox Church blasted the Serbian government for “surrendering” Kosovo.
As the Serbian government approved the deal and sent it for a debate in Parliament on Friday, the European Commission adopted a recommendation to Member States to open negotiations on EU membership with Serbia.
But, back at home, the growing opposition to the deal means trouble ahead for Belgrade’s implementation of the plan.
In defiance to the Belgrade authorities, at a massive protest in northern Kosovska Mitrovica, the Kosovo Serb leaders rejected the plan. They adopted instead a declaration which calls for the creation of an “Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohia”, a body to be composed at first of councilors from the four municipalities in the north.
“The Serb people will not allow the implementation of the agreement”, the declaration reads.
Meanwhile, in Belgrade, the opposition Democratic Party of Serbia led by former Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, held a rally and marched through the streets of Belgrade to protest in front of the Serbian government.
Kostunica, who toppled Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, called for both President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic to resign, and urged a referendum on the Brussels deal.
“This is only the start of our protests … Serbia will not calm down”, he said, as dozens of student groups and NGOs joined the rally.
The Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church urged President Nikolic and the Parliament to reject the deal.
In a harsh statement, the top body of the Orthodox Church called the deal “a surrender of what has been for centuries our most important spiritual and historical territory”.
The Synod said there was no doubt that “after paying such a high price for a ‘date for EU membership talks’, the price for “full membership in the European Union will be the formal recognition of an ‘independent Kosovo’ by Serbia”.
Also in Belgrade, famous film director and double Palme d’Or winner Emir Kusturica told a conference on Monday evening that the authorities need to be held accountable because, as he said, “they were not elected by the people on the platform of giving up on Kosovo but rather on the platform of refusing to give it up”.