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news 06 Mar 15

Pristina Blocks Kosovo Serb Municipalities' Accounts

The accounts of four Serb municipalities have been blocked after they weren't able to pass budgets that conformed to the specifications of the Finance Ministry in Pristina.

Una Hajdari, Valerie Hopkins
BIRN, Tanjug
Pristina

 

The accounts of the Serb-majority municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok in north Kosovo have been blocked after they did not hand over budgets that complied with the budget circulars set out by the Kosovo government and the ministry of finance, officials said.

According to Ksenija Bozovic, head of the North Mitrovica assembly, the accounts have been blocked for a week and the municipality is currently “not able to carry out any transfers”.

The deadline for passing budgets that conformed with Pristina’s guidelines was February 28.

But the assemblies of the Serb municipalities put forward budgets that were much higher than those foreseen by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Local Governance – according to the ministries, they were around 59 million euro higher.

North Mitrovica budgeted around 20 million euro, although only 2.7 million euro was approved by the government. Zvecan approved around 14 million euro, as against an allocated 1.6 million; Zubin Potok approved 21.5 million while only were 1.8 million was allocated, and Leposavic approved 11.5 million while only 2.3 million was allocated.

Before the February 28 deadline ran out, the government requested that the local assemblies of each municipality set new budgets, according to the budget circulars approved by the government.

But the mayor of North Mitrovica, Goran Rakic, declared before the deadline that his municipality would not change its budget.

“I don’t know how the work of the municipalities can be considered independent if the central government is involved. How do they wish to decentralize the power to the municipalities if they interfere in the work of the municipalities?” Rakic told Radio Kosova last week.

Dragan Jablanovic, the mayor of Leposavic, said that larger budgets were promised to the municipalities by the Minister for Dialogue, Edita Tahiri, who heads the Kosovo team in the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

“Due to the fact that the respective ministries, such as the Ministry for Infrastructure and other ministries, have not invested in the northern municipalities before, Tahiri said that we could request higher budgets for capital investments for our municipalities,” said Jablanovic.

The municipalities, which had operated under a parallel system in Kosovo, which was mainly run and financed by Belgrade, were promised larger budgets as a part of their integration into the Kosovo system through the creation of the Association of Serb Municipalities – a political formation within the Kosovo system which would grant these municipalities broad powers and is expected to be formed this year.

Qemajl Marmullakaj, head of the Office for Strategic Planning in the office of the Prime Minister said that it is “true that the municipalities were promised 17 million, but that it would not go through the municipal budget but separately through the relevant ministries”.

The money would be disbursed through national projects and not go through the municipalities themselves, Marmullakaj said.

But the municipalities argue that this is the budget which will also enable the health and education sectors – which have so far mainly been financed by Belgrade – to be financed through the municipal budgets.

North Mitrovica serves as a de-facto administrative center for the Serb community in Kosovo, with Serbs from all over Kosovo going there for medical check-ups and treatment, and most Serbs from Kosovo study at the University of Pristina in North Mitrovica – even those who come from municipalities that are not in the north.

“The Pristina government and the municipal assemblies have different opinions about the way this budget should be managed. Pristina should understand that North Mitrovica is not just a municipality, that it serves as the administrative center for almost all the Serbs in Kosovo,” said Adrijana Hodzic, the Head of the Administrative Office for North Mitrovica.

“The local assemblies believe that these competences should fall under the Association of Serb Municipalities,” Hodzic added.

According to the Ministry of Finance, if the local assemblies failed to adopt and hand over a draft budget by March 1, then “no expenses should be made by or in the name of the municipality in question until the local assemblies approve and hand over the documents to the Ministry”.

After a budget is approved, the minister then hands over these documents to the government, who then asks parliament to vote on whether to change the local assembly budgets and the Law for Budget Allocations. Parliament is however not obliged to vote on these changes.

 

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