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news 07 Feb 17

Kosovo Serb Association Depends on Boycott Ending, Minister Says

Kosovo minister says government is committed to working on establishing the Association of Serbian Municipalities - once Kosovo Serb politicians end their boycott of state institutions.

Die Morina
Northern Mitrovica | Photo: BIRN

Bajram Gecaj, Kosovo's deputy minister for local government, told BIRN that the government is waiting for Lista Srpska - the political representatives of the Serbian community - to return to work in state institutions before continuing talks on the establishment of an Association of Serbian Municipalities.

“The Kosovo government is ready to start working on the statute for the Association ... but such a process requires cooperation with Lista Srpska. If they do not return to Kosovo’s institutions, this has no logic,” Gecaj told BIRN.

BIRN asked Kosovo Serb officials to comment on this, but no reply was received by time of publication.

Lista Srpska is boycotting the government and parliament since October over the adoption of a controversial law on the disputed Trepca mine complex, which Serbia also claims.

The agreement on the establishment of the Association of Serbian Municipalities cannot be implemented without participation of Kosovo Serbs, as it anticipates changes in the functioning of Serb-dominated parts of Kosovo.

The principles of the deal were agreed in Brussels in August 2015.

The deal stipulate that Kosovo Serbs should have full “oversight” over economic development, education, healthcare, urban and rural planning, with budgetary contributions coming directly from Serbia. In exchange, the municipalities would agree to full integration into Kosovo.

However, Kosovo opposition parties asked the Constitutional Court for its own interpretation of the deal, and the court lately deemed that 23 articles of the agreement were anti-constitutional.

This decision prompted the government to form a working group, which would work on the statute for the Association in line with the Kosovo constitution. Kosovo Serb representatives are part of the working group.

“We have sent signals to show that we are ready, but they should be back in the institutions first,” Gecaj said.

However, the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, accused the Kosovo authorities of bad faith over the Association of Serbian Municipalities on Monday.

“The whole idea is to mock everything that was achieved four years ago. I believe neither them [the Kosovo Albanians] nor those who protect them,” he said.

The opposition Vetevendosje party in Kosovo, which has strongly opposed the agreement ever since it was signed, often throwing teargas in parliament over it, also does not agree with the proposal.

“The government’s attempts to revive again the already dead project of the Association ... will meet our strong resistance,” Shqipe Pantina, a Vetevendosje MP, told BIRN.

The agreement is equally unacceptable to the opposition Initiative for Kosovo, NISMA.

“The constitutional Court has issued its interpretation on the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities and that decision must be respected,” Valdete Bajrami, head of the NISMA parliamentary group, told BIRN.

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