Serbs won’t back Kosovo recognition for EU seat, president warns

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president, a former Serb nationalist who has changed his views over the past decade to become pro-European, said any decision on Kosovo would have to be put to the Serbian people. (Reuters)
Updated 17 February 2018
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Serbs won’t back Kosovo recognition for EU seat, president warns

BELGRADE: Serbs are unlikely to support full recognition of Kosovo as independent in exchange for EU membership, so only a compromise can stop Kosovo’s status from festering for decades in a “frozen conflict,” Serbia’s president warned on Friday.
The European Union has told Serbia it could join the bloc by 2025, provided it carries out reforms at home and resolves its differences with Kosovo, a province which declared independence 10 years ago.
The bloc has not said explicitly what form an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo must take, but Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, told reporters in Pristina on Wednesday that Serbian “acceptance of Kosovo’s independence” was a condition.
Serbia’s leadership has been seeking a formula it can sell to the public in a referendum. Some commentators have suggested a deal under which Belgrade might stop short of recognizing Kosovo as sovereign, but accept it joining the United Nations, which Serbia’s veto-wielding ally Russia has so far blocked.
Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president, a former Serb nationalist who has changed his views over the past decade to become pro-European, said any decision would have to be put to Serbian voters, many of whom consider Kosovo the cradle of their Orthodox faith.
“The people would decide; if you think that can get a majority, I’m not so sure,” Vucic told Reuters in an interview.
“We have to look at today’s reality and to understand relations in the world and relations in Kosovo and to understand that it (Kosovo) is not ours as we taught ourselves, but neither is it theirs as they try to show it,” he said.
“If there is no compromise we will have a frozen conflict for decades. We should not leave that to our children to deal with.”
Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1999 when NATO bombed for 11 weeks to halt a wave of killings and expulsions of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian security forces waging a two-year counter-insurgency war.
It declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by more than 100 countries around the world, including the major Western powers. However, five of the EU’s 28 members do not recognize Kosovo as sovereign, complicating the bloc’s ability to take a united stand.
On Tuesday, Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, told Reuters that he expected a deal with Serbia within the year and that it would result in Kosovo’s membership of the United Nations.
In exchange, some of Vucic’s allies, including his foreign and defense ministers, have called for Kosovo to be partitioned, with Serbia taking a northern slice populated by minority Serbs which Kosovo has struggled to integrate. Vucic declined to comment on such calls.
He insisted agreement was possible, but that it would require “political will in Brussels to reach a compromise, rather than continuing to put pressure on Serbia.”
Quoting the Serbian writer Borislav Pekic, Vucic said Serbia should look to the future: “We should not kiss the ground our ancestors walked on, but rather the ground our children will walk on.”


Canada to announce marijuana legalization date soon

The federal government said provincial and territorial governments will need eight to 12 weeks following Senate passage and royal assent to prepare for retail sales. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Canada to announce marijuana legalization date soon

  • Canada is following the lead of Uruguay in allowing a nationwide, legal marijuana market
  • Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in the US

TORONTO: The Canadian government said Wednesday it will soon announce the date when cannabis will become legal — but warned it will remain illegal until then.
The Senate gave final passage to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bill to legalize cannabis on Tuesday. But Canadians will have to wait at least a couple of months to legally buy marijuana. The country will become the second in the world to make pot legal nationwide.
“The legislation is transformative,” said Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, adding it “marks a wholesale shift in how our country approaches cannabis, leaving behind a failed model of prohibition.”
The federal government said provincial and territorial governments will need eight to 12 weeks following Senate passage and royal assent to prepare for retail sales. Legal sales are expected to start sometime in early or mid-September.
Wilson-Raybould suggested Trudeau could announce the legalization date as soon as later Wednesday, when the prime minister has an end-of-Parliament session press conference.
“The law still remains the law,” Wilson-Raybould said. “I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force.”
Canada is following the lead of Uruguay in allowing a nationwide, legal marijuana market, although each Canadian province is working up its own rules for pot sales. The federal government and the provinces also still need to publish regulations that will govern the cannabis trade.
Many questions remain unanswered, including how police will test motorists suspect of driving under the influence, what to do about those with prior marijuana convictions and just how the rules governing home cultivation will work.
The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Manitoba have already decided to ban home-grown pot, even though the federal bill specifies that individuals can grow up to four plants per dwelling.
“Provinces can set their own laws. If individuals are challenging that law, they can challenge it,” Wilson-Raybould said.
Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said discussions for pardons of past convictions “can’t take place” until legalization is in effect.
In the neighboring US, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana. California, home to one in eight Americans, launched the United States’ biggest legal marijuana marketplace on Jan 1.