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news 01 Nov 17

Thaci Vows to Ease Serb Fears About Kosovo Army

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci joined a discussion on the potential creation of a regular army in Kosovo, saying Serbian fears about such a development needed addressing.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina
The discussion about about the stands of Kosovo Serbs on KSF transformation into an army | Photo: Presidency of Kosovo

Kosovo Serb representatives from civil society groups, Kosovo's President and pundits on security issues discussed Serb fears about the potential transformation of the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, into a regular army at a discussion organized by Kosovar Center for Security Studies on Wednesday in Pristina.

No political representatives of Kosovo Serbs participated in the discussion.

"Mistrust regarding the transformation of the KSF is present in the Serb community. This is a high level of fear and a key issue," said Jovan Radosavljevic, director of the New Social Initiative in North Mitrovica, welcoming the initiative for talks on the transformation process.

Radosavljevic unpacked the fears in the Serb community about the potential creation of an army. "We live in a frozen conflict and it is good to consider all the fears and for them to be adequately addressed," he said.

Veroljub Petronic, director of the Humani Centar in Serb-run North Mitrovica, said that some 80 per cent of Kosovo Serbs opposed the transformation of KSF, according to research, while only 7 percent of them did not comment on this issue.

He linked fears of transforming the KSF to events in May 2015 in Kumanovo, in Macedonia, when Macedonian security forces and Albanian insurgents became locked in bloody street battles.

“After the events that took place in Macedonia, in which 21 Kosovo citizens participated, it came out that some were members of the former Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC,” said Petronic, adding that Serbs saw the current KSF as a continuity to the KPC.

The trial in Macedonia continues of 37 ethnic Albanians accused of participating in a two-day shootout with Macedonian security forces that left 18 people dead in the northern town.

Regarding the transformation of the KSF into an army, he further stated that “the roots of fear are severe and profound”.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who started and then abandoned an initiative to transform KSF through constitutional amendments, also took part in the discussion, saying he was well aware of Serbian concerns.

“If needed, we will explain every day why the KSF should be transformed into the armed forces,” Thaci said.

He insisted that a Kosovo army would not be "against" anyone, adding that the existing KSF already contained a number of Serbs.

“We are all proud that there are 103 representatives of the Serbian community in the composition of the KSF," Thaci said.

The President said also that no one could stop the eventual creation of an armed force, and that the KSF should be transformed through constitutional changes.

"No one can block this process. We want the armed forces to be made by changing the constitution, by joining in one place, in the Assembly of Kosovo, the political will of all communities in Kosovo," Thaci said.

Burim Ramadani, director of the Research Center for Security Policies, a think tank, said any decision on transformation should be transparent.

"Consultations should be comprehensive and the decision should be maximally inclusive, each step of the KSF in transformation should be seen," Ramadani said.

Kosovo Serb politicians, most of whom work in harmony with Belgrade, are firmly against the proposal, however, seeing it as another step towards the consolidation of Kosovo's statehood, to which Serbia remains opposed.

The issue was also a topic during a meeting between Kosovo Serb representatives from the main Lista Srpska party and the head of the EU Office in Kosovo, Nataliya Apostolova on Tuesday, where Slavko Simic said again that they would not support the transformation of the KSF into an army.

 

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