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News 17 May 13

Serbia's Presevo Albanians Ask Pristina for Support

As Pristina and Belgrade seek agreement on implementing their EU-brokered deal, Albanian leaders in Serbia’s Presevo Valley are urging the Kosovo authorities to help them win more rights.

Edona Peci BIRN Pristina

“There is no reason for us, as a minority in the Presevo Valley, to have less rights than the Serbs who live in Kosovo,” said Riza Halimi, the only ethnic Albanian MP in the Serbian parliament.

In addition to the human rights and fundamental freedoms provided for different communities within the Kosovo constitution, Kosovo Serbs and other communities also enjoy other “specific rights” to representation in state institutions and other areas.

Comparing the “minimal rights” ethnic Albanians have in Serbia to those given by Kosovo to ethnic Serbs, Halimi said that “a great disproportion can be seen”.

The Presevo Valley in south Serbia is home to 50,000 or so Albanians, while most Serbs living in Kosovo are located in Zvecan, Zubin Potok, Leposaviq and North Mitrovica at the northern border with Serbia.

The northern area has been beyond the Pristina government’s control since the end of the war in 1999.

Last month, Kosovo and Serbia adopted a 15-point draft agreement on normalising relations, allowing both sides to advance their integration into the European Union.

They will meet again in Brussels on May 21 in an attempt to sort out the implementation of the agreement.

The deal mainly concerns the future of the Serbian community in Kosovo, but does not include problems Albanians face in Presevo.

“As the agreement is achieved, we expect the Kosovo institutions to work in concrete areas in order to resolve vital problems related to the life of Albanians in the Presevo Valley and Albanians in Serbia in general,” Halimi said.

His comments came after a delegation of Presevo politicians met Isa Mustafa, head of the oppositional Kosovo Democratic League.

Referring to steps that could help resolve the problems facing Albanians in Serbia, Mustafa suggested there should be dialogue on the issue between Kosovo and Serbia after they agree on the implementation of the agreement struck in Brussels.

“Once the programme for implementing the agreement is finished, Kosovo and Serbia have to open a discussion about the issue of the rights that Albanians who live in Presevo and in Serbia enjoy,” Mustafa said.

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