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News 11 Sep 13

Serbia Pulls Plug on North Kosovo Assemblies

As part of the EU-led deal on normalising ties with Kosovo, Serbia has dissolved the assemblies it has financed in four ethnically Serbian municipalities in the north of the country.

Gordana Andric BIRN Belgrade

Belgrade on Tuesday acted to dismantle the local assemblies it has financed in the northern Kosovo municipalities of Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok.

Ahead of Kosovo-wide local elections in November, the Serbian government has meantime appointed provisional heads and bodies for the municipalities.

Serbian cabinet ministers have also formed a team in charge of establishing the planned Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo, whose formation also forms part of a deal on normalising Serbia-Kosovo relations.

Ksenija Bozovic, former president of the Mitrovica assembly, said local Serbs were expecting the move, and it would not cause a rise in tension.

Kosovo and Serbia started EU-mediated talks in March 2011. On April 19, the two sides struck an historic deal intended to normalise relations and boost both sides' progress towards EU membership.

The deal primarily addresses the vexed issue of Serbian state-run parallel institutions in the north of Kosovo, where most of the population are ethnic Serbs.

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, the north of Kosovo has been beyond the Kosovo government's control while Serbia has continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

The planned Association of Serbian Municipalities will be invested with broad powers.

Implementation of the deal is a precondition for Serbia to start EU accession talks in January.

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