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news 14 Jan 14

Aid Pledge Fails to Impress Serbian Albanians

While Kosovo and Albania have reached agreement on allocating some funds for the Albanian community in South Serbia, local leaders are not convinced it will achieve much.

BIRN
Belgrade

Skender Destani, vice-president of the municipality of Presevo in South Serbia, said ethnic Albanians in the region needed political as well as financial help from friendly governments in Kosovo and Albania.

"Financial help of some 100,000 euro, as [Albania Prime Minister Edi] Rama has announced, will not do much," Destani said.

The governments of Kosovo and Albania discussed the situation of Albanians in Serbia at their first joint meeting on Saturday in Prizren, in Kosovo.

The two governments agreed to establish a fund for ethnic Albanians in the deprived South Serbia area.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said one of the goals of the Prizren meeting was to  harmonize policies towards the unsolved problems of all ethnic Albanians in the Balkans.

In November, ethnic Albanian leaders in South Serbia asked Albania and Kosovo for financial aid.

"If 45 million euro is being allocated to [Serb-run northern] Kosovo in the Serbian budget [for 2014], funds should be earmarked for the municipalities of Bujanovac and Presevo [in South Serbia] in the Kosovo and Albanian budgets," Jonuz Musliu, president of an ethnic Albanian party, the Movement for Democratic Progress, said back then.

The request came days after local Albanians quit talks with the Serbian government.

The south of Serbia is home to about 50,000 ethnic Albanians who live on the border with mainly Albanian Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

In 2001, the region saw an armed conflict between the security forces and Albanian rebels, which ended with the help of the international community and NATO. Armed conflict has not returned, but discontent remains high.

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