Kosovo's new municipalities committed to moving forward

02/10/2012

The mayors said the two new municipalities will make steps forward, but many are doubtful that the changes will improve their situation.

By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 02/10/12

photo

Serbs in the newly created Gracanica municipality. [Reuters]

Mayors of the newly established minority-dominated municipalities in Kosovo said they are prepared to move forward in the post-supervised independence era, despite concerns of safety, fundamental rights and freedoms and little to no economic opportunities.

The new municipalities were created based on Marti Ahtisaari's status settlement plan for Kosovo.

Peter Faith, the head of International Civilian Office which supervised the municipalities' creation as well as local decentralisation, called on municipal representatives in early summer to start thinking about the post-supervised independence period.

In such circumstances, any normal person would be concerned, Bojan Stojanovic, mayor of a new Serb-dominated municipality of Gracanica near Pristina, told SETimes.

"Everything new causes concern for us in the Balkans," he said.

Stojanovic said he is committed to utilising the new set up in the belief that local leaders can and should resolve existing societal problems.

"We will continue to announce in a public and transparent way all the problems we face, especially the ones linked to the Serbian community," he said.

Arif Bytyc, mayor of the Turkish-dominated municipality of Mamusha in southern Kosovo, said he is not worried about ending international supervision.

"Co-existence between the Turkish and Albanian communities has always been positive and thus, there is no room for concern," Bytyc told SETimes.

But Stojanovic said that the international office did not finish its work prior to departing.

"They should have assisted in preparing a set of laws on construction, fiscal decentralisation, and clarified [the status of] state property," he said.

Kosovo lacks a plan for development, a socio-economic map and an effective strategy for aiding the existence of ordinary people, he said.

"If we do not create conditions for a normal and prosperous life, good education, health and jobs, it is not important if their [departure] happens now, in three or 10 years," Stojanovic said.

The office supervised the implementation of Ahtisaari plan and has advised local authorities since 2008 on developing political institutions and practice based on Western democratic principles.

"Now, Kosovo and its institutions have the necessary capacity to keep functioning without ongoing supervision from the international community," Bytyc said.

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Some Serbs disagreed, arguing that the departure of the international supervision mission will make matters worse.

"We used to live in that reality, and now we must join the Kosovo institutions, which is hard," Bojan Todorovic told SETimes.

Still others, like Mamusha resident Eset Mazrrek, said they do not expect the changes will have any practical effects on day-to-day life.

"Instead of the internationals, the central authorities now will co-operate with our leaders, which means there will be no [direct] impact in my life," Mazrrek told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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