News 25 Sep 15

Kosovo-Serbia Schoolbooks Deal Breaks Down

Pristina’s education ministry said that no Serbian textbooks could be distributed in Kosovo, accusing Belgrade of breaching an agreement to exchange books for use in each other’s minority ethnic communities’ schools.

Petrit Collaku
Kosovo’s education minister Arsim Bajrami.

Kushtrim Shkodra, a political advisor to Kosovo’s education minister, told BIRN on Friday that two trucks full of textbooks intended for ethnic Albanian pupils in Serbia’s Presevo Valley were being held by the Serbian authorities in a customs terminal for unknown reasons.

“We are waiting for the Serbian authorities to finally let the books go as a donation to the Albanian Council of the [Presevo] Valley and for them to be distributed to pupils,” Shkodra told BIRN.

A deal was reached on September 10 that Pristina will supply school textbooks to Albanian communities in Serbia while Belgrade will do the same for Serbs in Kosovo - the first time that the two sides have come to such an agreement since the war ended in 1999.

But Kosovo’s education minister Arsim Bajrami said on Wednesday that the deal was off if Serbia fails to allow the Albanian books to be sent to schools.

“I have ordered all customs that no Serbian books are allowed to be distributed in Kosovo before our books go to the right place,” Bajrami said.

The Serbian education ministry did not respond to any of BIRN’s requests for a comment on Friday.

Bajrami said he spoke with Serbian education minister Srdjan Verbic on September 18 at an education conference in Split in Croatia and warned him that the agreement was under threat.

“For more than ten days, two trucks with more than 100 books have been parked in the [customs] terminal, and I am paying 400 euro for parking. They are not dealing with it. I told the Serbian minister in Split that I will apply reciprocity,” Bajrami told Kosovo’s parliamentary commission on education.

Bajrami repeated that the school textbooks from Kosovo do not contain hate speech or any ideological content.

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