Kosovo Albanians are casting furtive glances towards Serbia after last week's elections.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 14/05/12
Socialist Party leader Ivica Dacic, who has threatened ‘reciprocal’ arrests of Kosovo Albanians when Serbs are arrested in Kosovo, will play a key position in forming Serbia’s new government. [Reuters]
The increase of support for the Socialist Party in last week's elections in Serbia and Kosovo's north has caused concern in Kosovo among Albanians and local Serbs.
The party, which was toppled from power in mass demonstrations just 12 years ago when it was led by Slobodan Milosevic, gained key leverage in the May 6th Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Socialists, headed by Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, won about 16% of the vote, making it impossible to form the new government without them.
Dacic is considered the mastermind in the recent arrests of Kosovars in Serbia -- the latest of which took place two days before the elections.
Seb Bytyci, executive director of the Pristina-based Balkan Policy Institute-IPOL, told SETimes that the election result in Serbia shows that Belgrade has not changed since 1999.
"This election is important because the DS did not win the most votes. So, the new government can't use the old mantra 'help us or the nationalists will win' to curry favours with the international community," Bytyci said.
Deputy Kosovo Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi told SETimes that the recent arrests are unacceptable for Kosovo, and show a motive of revenge rather than judicial procedures.
"Kosovo has only arrested members of Serbian authority such as policemen, postmen or election officials that were operating inside Kosovo, in blatant disregard of Resolution 1244 and laws of Kosovo that ban any presence of Serbian authority."
"Serbia on the other hand arrested a 65-year-old trade unionist based on charges from 1999. Or an Austrian-Kosovar who was passing through Serbia with his family, as he has done half a dozen times before. Just pure arbitrary arrests which stoke fire and are intended to provoke," Selimi said.
Dacic has concluded an agreement to join a coalition with Tadic's Democratic Party.
Bytyci said Dacic's current posts as deputy prime minister and interior minister may help predict what could happen in the next mandate.
"Certainly the willingness of the Serbian government to breach the human rights of Albanians, whether in the Presevo Valley or those traveling through Serbia, does not seem like a good omen. The burden of proof is now with Serbia, when it comes to commitment to democratisation, respect for human rights and European integration -- especially since the EU gave it candidate status" Bytyci told SETimes.
He said Kosovo should issue a travel alert for those travelling to or through Serbia, because they might end up arrested due to their ethnic background.
But Selimi said that Kosovo will wait to see the formation of the new government in Belgrade and its stance towards the dialogue. "We will wait for the EU to give a final and clear message to Serbia of what we all expect from new government -- including full implementation of what we agreed in Brussels."
He said that Serbia must ensure the implementation of the agreements concluded during the EU-facilitated dialogue with Kosovo.
"Serbia must ensure freedom of movement for all Kosovo citizens who travel through Serbia, and Serbia must attend the regional meetings with Kosovars around the table as equals. And very soon after, Serbia will have to also allow Pristina - Belgrade flights, roaming agreements, postal communication, banking transfers, playing with Kosovo in sports and many other steps in the process of normalisation in the Balkans," Selimi said.
Hysen Hasani, 47, a doctor from Pristina, told SETimes that he does not expect anything to change.
"What should we expect when those people who supported Milosevic to carry on with the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo are now in power again? They will not bring something new; rather we will experience worse times possibly," Hasani said.