Number of Serbs in northern Kosovo disputed

20/08/2012

Kosovo agencies, Belgrade dispute the number of Serbs living in northern Kosovo.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 20/08/12

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The number of Serbs living in northern Kosovo is uncertain. [Reuters]

With the results of last year's census being announced next month, the confusion of how many Serbs live in northern Kosovo has intensified. The issue is compounded by the fact that the northern Serbs refused to participate in last year's population count.

The results will include numbers from 34 Kosovo municipalities, but will circumvent the three municipalities in the north. That number will be based on a preliminary test of the census that was conducted in the north in 2008-2009.

That population count, numbering around 40,000, will be attached to the final census figures, Sabri Zabergja, director of the Census Office, told Kosovo daily Zeri.

Zabergja said that the results are expected to be accepted by the UN Office for Project Services, which implements peace building, humanitarian and development operations.

However, all do not agree.

"I cannot confirm anything on that. There is no decision taken yet. We will give the final results for the 34 municipalities, but there was no census in the three municipalities in the north," Isa Krasniqi, the head of Kosovo Statistics Agency, told SETimes.

Krasniqi said that his agency has other population data for the north which should also be verified. "Kosovo will have statistics for the general number of the population. We will give the general data for the entire Kosovo, including the north. The data will be channelled, but it is important to have them recognised by Eurostat," Krasniqi added.

Kosovo ran census tests in 2005, in 2006 and 2008. More than 71 percent of northern Kosovo Serbs participated in the 2008 test, but refused to participate in the census itself in 2011.

The StatGIS shpk company was contracted by the Kosovo Statistics Agency to update data on the Enumeration Areas (EA) in the country.

"The update of data of EA was part of census preparation activities. The tools and methodology used in this process were approved by local and international stakeholders involved in the census preparation activities," Nehat Dervishi, company director, told SETimes.

Ramadan Ilazi, co-founder of Fol (Speak up) Movement, says that the population in the north cannot be known for sure.

"We should be aware that the issue of the Serbs living in Kosovo is a century problem between the Albanians and the Serbs. Any time that the governments of the respective states talk about this issue, it loses the practical and human dimension," Ilazi told SETimes.

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Belgrade, however, said there were about 52,000 to 55,000 citizens in Kosovo's north, according to 2009 data. Out of that, 95 percent are Serbs and 5 percent Albanians, Bosniak, Gorani and Roma. The biggest municipality is Northern Mitrovica, which has more than 20,000 citizens. The smallest is Zubin Potok, with about 4,000 inhabitants.

Slavica Markovic, a 52-year-old merchant in Northern Mitrovica, says there are no exact statistics on how many Serbs or Albanians live in the North. "People say there are from 40,000 to 50,000 Serbs. I don't know how many Albanians live in the north. I will register myself when Serbian institutions hold a census," Markovic told SETimes.

Kosovo's 2011 census was the first since 1981.

SETimes correspondent Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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