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News 06 Feb 18

Serbian Rightists To Protest on Kosovo Independence Day

Serbian nationalists opposed to the independence of Serbia's former province have said they intend to stage a protest march on Kosovo Independence Day.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade

New Born sign in Pristina, 2008. Photo: Wikimedia/Qiv

Several right-wing movements in Serbia, such as Serbian Action, Identity Generation and Cultural Club Lighthouse, have announced a "March for Serbian Kosovo" on February 17, the tenth anniversary of Kosovo’s independence.

Serbian nationalists fiercely oppose the independence of the mainly ethnic Albanian former province, which many of them call the "cradle" of the Serbian nation.

“On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the illegal proclamation of the so-called independence of Kosovo and Metohija, patriots from Serbian Action, Identity Generation and the Cultural Club Svetionik [Lighthouse] will organize a ‘March for Serbian Kosovo,’” they announced on Facebook.

Kosovo proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008, having de facto broken away in 1999 as a result of NATO's air war on Serbia.

Most Western countries, including the US, recognised Kosovo as a state long ago, but five EU states – Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Romania and Cyprus – do not. Serbia also enjoys strong support from Russia and China over the Kosovo issue.

Formally, Kosovo has been free of international oversight since the International Civilian Office, the body responsible for overseeing independence, left in 2012. The EU's rule-of-law mission, EULEX, remains in place, though with reduced powers.

While the independence of Kosovo is strongly opposed by the Serbian government, it is denied still more vehemently by the nationalist right.

The official announcement of the “March for Kosovo” said the gathering will start at 5pm in front of St Mark's church in Belgrade.

Serbian Action is well known to the public and was involved in Sunday’s controversial commemoration of Milan Nedic.

Nedic headed Serbia’s puppet government under German occupation during World War II.

Pictures from the event, shared widely on social networks, showed activists giving Nazi salutes.

Identity Generation and Cultural Club Lighthouse are not so known in public. Their websites and Facebook accounts say they stand for “the protection of Serbian ethno-cultural identity” and strongly oppose Kosovo's independence.

“We invite all patriots to join us, and together show the attitude of a patriotic Serbia that does not give up on the holy Serbian land - Kosovo and Metohija,” the event's Facebook page says.

In Kosovo, on the other hand, variety of events are planned for the anniversary. The official agenda is still to be announced, but former Foreign Minister of Kosovo Petrit Selimi has already said that UK-based pop star Rita Ora, who was born in Kosovo, will hold a concert.

Last year's event began with a ceremony at the grave of first President Ibrahim Rugova in Pristina.

Kosovo officials also paid tribute at the memorial complex in the village of Prekaz, which commemorates Kosovo Liberation Army founder Adem Jashari. He was killed along with 50 others when Yugoslav forces laid siege to his family home in the village in 1998.

US President Donald Trump has sent a letter of congratulation, declaring America's support for a “sovereign, multi-ethnic and democratic” Kosovo.

Kosovo formed part of the medieval Serbian state for centuries during the Middle Ages and was the site of an important battle between Serbia and the invading Ottomans in 1389.

After the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, its demography slowly changed and Serbs became a minority in what was now a mainly Albanian land.

Serbia regained Kosovo during the Balkan wars of 1912-13. After the Second World War, the communist Yugoslav government granted it the status of an autonomous province. Following an uprising in the late-1990s, which Serbia attempted to crush, NATO intervened with an air campaign that resulted in Serbia's withdrawal in 1999. However, the northernmost sliver of Kosovo remains under Serbia's de facto control.

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