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News 30 Oct 17

Serbia Promises Broader Public Debate on Kosovo

As the Serbian government’s working group tasked to coordinate ‘internal dialogue’ on Kosovo held its first meeting, its head, Marko Djuric, said it aimed to encourage a wider public debate on this still very sensitive issue.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Marko Djuric. Photo: Beta/Milos Miskov

At the first meeting on Monday of Serbia's recently formed "working group" on Kosovo, its head, Marko Djuric, said the debate “should include state institutions, academics, the public, representatives of various organizations from civil society, and as much as possible – the citizens”.

“We will try to encourage also those who have not yet publicly made known their own views on the various aspects of the Kosovo-Metohija issues,” Djuric told Tanjug  news agency.

The working group is supposed to support the authorities in monitoring and progressing an internal dialogue on Kosovo and comprises representatives of all ministries, the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society and the Secretariat for Legislation.

President Aleksandar Vucic announced the formation of the “working group” for the second phase of the country’s much talked about “internal dialogue” on Kosovo on October 17.

On September 12, he declared the first phase of the dialogue over.

However, some experts have called the formation of the new group absurd, saying the result of the first phase remain totally unknown.

According to Tanjug, Djuric said the group should “support the Serbian President and government in one of the most difficult jobs that they have faced in recent years”.

In June, President Vucic said he invites all citizens to join what he termed “an internal dialogue on Kosovo and Metohija” - the former province that declared independence in 2008, which Serbia has not recognised, so that “we don’t leave this burden to our descendants”.

While most opposition politicians have ignored it, the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, SANU, have expressed readiness to participate.

A local rights NGO, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, also expressed its readiness to participate and even drew up its own “Guide to Internal Dialogue”, but received no response from authorities on their urge to include into dialogue.

The liberal Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights, YUCOM, said it respected the need for dialogue on the issue as “the question of the Kosovo talks has been closed to the public for too long”.

At the joint press conference of Vucic and Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik on Sunday, Vucic referred again to the need for an internal dialogue on Kosovo, to "free ourselves of our myths," and from "the lie that everything in Kosovo is ours, but also lies that there is nothing ours there”.

Tanjug quoted Vucic as saying that Serbs needed to recognise the fact that perhaps 6 to 8 per cent of the population of Kosovo was Serbian “and not 80 per cent”.

Meanwhile, on Monday several nationalist groups and parties, led by the right-wing Dveri party, announced the formation of a group for “Kosovo defence”.

Among other demands, they called for the suspension of negotiations with Brussels over Kosovo, and a referendum in Serbia in which citizens would say if they wanted Kosovo to remain part of their state.

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