Kosovo Serbs defiantly formed their own parallel parliament in Kosovo at the weekend, but the parties that will spearhead the new government -- the Democratic Party and G17 Plus -- did not participate in the inaugural assembly.
By Igor Jovanovic and Blerta Foniqi-Kabashi for Southeast European Times in Belgrade and Pristina -- 30/06/08
Serbian Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic (left) speaks at the inaugural session of the Kosovo Serb assembly in Mitrovica on Saturday (June 28th). [Getty Images]
As anticipated, Kosovo Serbs in the northern part of the divided town of Mitrovica formed their own parliament on Saturday (June 28th). It will not have a legislative role but will gather representatives of the Serb community from 26 municipalities in Kosovo.
The Radical Party will have 17 members. Outgoing Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) will have 13, while four members will represent the Socialist Party and one will represent the Citizens League. Serbian President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party (DS) will have three members, and G17 Plus will have one representative. Representatives of the Goran, Roma and Bosniak communities obtained seats too. However, representatives of the DS and G17 Plus, the parties that will form the new government in Belgrade, did not attend the session.
Goran Bogdanovic, head of the Kosovo chapter of the DS, said they skipped the session because they believe the new government in Belgrade should first take a stand on the future of the Kosovo Serb assembly.
"We believe that the convening of such a parliament before the convening of the Serbian government will cause only more confusion and an even worse division within the Serb community in Kosovo," Bogdanovic said.
However, representatives of the DSS think that the new parliament enjoys legitimacy among the Kosovo Serbs. Kostunica aide and Minister for Kosovo and Metohija Slobodan Samardzic said Serbs and other non-Albanians loyal to Serbia "have acquired democratically elected representatives and governing bodies" with the new parliament.
Kosovo Serb backing for the assembly, though, was not unanimous. The head of the National Serb Council, Rada Trajkovic, opposed its creation. "This is not useful for Kosovo Serbs," she said. The Kosovo government and international agencies criticised the assembly.
President Fatmir Sejdiu said "Through this parliament, Serbia aims to destabilise Kosovo."
UNMIK urged Kosovo Serbs to co-operate with Kosovo's government and international organisations that operate in Kosovo. "The creation of this parliament is not a serious issue, because [it] will not have an operative role," said UNMIK spokesman Alexander Ivanko. In a defiant mood, some Kosovo Serbs gathered on Saturday in Gazimestan to commemorate the 1389 Battle of Kosovo.
"Every year, I come here to celebrate," said Dragan Milic, adding that "Kosovo Serbs should not forget that they had a history and that Kosovo is part of Serbia."