Kosovo needs a solid plan for the north

25/04/2012

The problem of integrating the north into Kosovo's rule, and the lack of communication with the people living there, has shown that Pristina needs to get serious.

By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 25/04/12

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Kosovo Serbs, holding a protest in March, refuse to accept Kosovo rule. [Reuters]

As a wave of tension washed over Mitrovica this month -- with the bombing and death of a Kosovo Albanian and then the reported retaliation beating of an elderly Kosovo Serb -- the question of a solution to northern Kosovo has again risen to the forefront.

In its 2011 progress report released in November, the EU required a strategy from Pristina on its vision for northern Kosovo. Calls from foreign diplomats in Kosovo, mainly from the US, French and British ambassadors, have also urged a plan.

French Ambassador in Kosovo François Fitou told Gazeta Express last week that everything that Serbs in northern Kosovo require is included in the Ahtisaari Comprehensive Proposal on Kosovo, while at the same time, Kosovo's territorial integrity must be guaranteed by the international community.

"The position of France is, that instead of talking about Ahtisaari Plus or Minus, special status, autonomy, or whatever else, the real work or the most important thing is to sit at the table, open to the Ahtisaari Plan and discuss each sentence. We are confident that … 90% of what [Serbs] are looking at the as autonomy, already is in the plan," Fitou said.

He said that the talks should be led by Kosovo's government and the Serbs of northern Kosovo, with mediation by the international community, and should include also Belgrade.

Kosovo officials have voiced the need for talks with Kosovo Serbs, but have opposed any talks that include Belgrade as a party.

Kosovo MP Donika Kadaj-Bujupi told SETimes that while Pristina should not discuss its internal matters with Serbia,"The government should engage in a dialogue with its citizens in the north. They should move from Pristina to Mitrovica and offer guarantees for security, employment, economic development and comprehensiveness of its citizens, regardless of ethnicity," Kadaj-Bujupi said.

She says that the government is not serious when it comes to the north, and statements from the new police intervention in Mitrovica send the wrong messages.

"Ahtisaari contains so many privileges to the northern municipalities as its full implementation will with no doubt satisfy the interests of the citizens of this area because it is designed in such a way ... with a special emphasis to ensure the interests of communities" Kadaj-Bujupi said.

Florentina Hajdari, a Mitrovica resident, said the problem is implementation of the Ahtisaari proposal. "Ahtisaari was a painful compromise for Kosovo, but [because] it offered supervised independence it was accepted with a great enthusiasm. Today there is no willingness from Kosovo citizens to accept something more than the Ahtisaari package," she said.

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Kujtim Ibishaj a fellow from Kosovo Institute for Governance and Public Policy, told SETimes that an agreement that consists of elements of the Ahtisaari proposal is the most realistic solution.

"The proposal of the French ambassador is real and should be seriously considered. It would include Kosovo's stance [of accepting] nothing beyond Ahtisaari, so the elements dealing with minority protection and decentralisation would be included in a separate agreement. It respects the Serbian stance for not accepting the Ahtisaari proposal because of the independence clause," Ibishaj said.

He said the government must now seriously determine its position on northern Kosovo.

"Pristina has been and is unclear with its policy towards the north. It is seven months since the EU requested that, and I have not heard anything new. The key question is, is Pristina ready to talk with people who are considered by Pristina and the international community to be leaders of criminal activities?" Ibishaj said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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