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News 10 Nov 15

Kosovo Court Defers Serb-Majority Governance Deal

Prishtina’s Constitutional Court suspends implementation of key agreement on Serb-Majority municipality powers between Kosovo and Serbia.

Valerie Hopkins BIRN Pristina

Kosovo’s Constitutional Court has frozen the process of implementing part of a key agreement with Serbia on the future rights of its ethnic Serb citizens, a move that will likely anger ethnic Serbs in Kosovo and the Serbian government in Belgrade.

The accord details “general principles and main elements” of the Association of Serbian-majority municipalities, and sets out enhanced powers for local government in those areas.

“The Constitutional Court has issued and published its decision on interim measures, suspending the implementation of any further legal actions on the basis of these “general principles/main elements” of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo pending the Court’s review of the compliance with the Constitution of these principles,” the court said in a statement.

A full decision will be reached by January 12, after the court has assessed the constitutionality of the elements of the agreement.

The principles were agreed in Brussels on August 25, 2015, with a slew of other deals, and stipulate that Kosovo Serbs can have full “overview” of economic development, education, health care, urban and rural planning, with budgetary contributions coming directly from Serbia, in exchange for full integration into Kosovo.

The Association of Serbian majority municipalities, or Zajednica as it is known in Serbian, has been a cornerstone of the 19 April 2013 agreement brokered by former EU foreign minister Baroness Catherine Ashton, and also a source of controversy, fear and uncertainty.

Kosovo’s main opposition bloc, led by the Vetevendosje party, has continued protests against the agreement, including repeatedly disrupting parliament by firing tear gas canisters in the debating chamber.

They have also sponsored a petition against the principle tenets of the deal and also against a controversial border demarcation agreement with Montenegro, which has so far garnered more than 200,000 signatures, according to the opposition.

In the face of continued disruption and blocking of Kosovo Assembly procedures, Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga referred the decision to the Constitutional Court on 31 October.

 

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