Pristina encourages minorities to join Kosovo Security Force

17/04/2013

Several regional factors will affect minority recruitment, but Pristina is making serious efforts to diversify the Kosovo Security Force.

By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 17/04/13

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The Kosovo Security Force is hoping to diversify its ranks. [Safet Kabashaj/SETimes]

Minorities have shown interest in serving in the Kosovo Security Force after Pristina authorities conducted a broad campaign to encourage inclusion, security experts said.

More than 200 candidates responded to the force's call for new recruits in early April.

"Out of 224 candidates, there are 65 Bosnians, 54 Serbs [and] 36 Turks," Ibrahim Shala, head of the press department at the Kosovo Security Force ministry, told SETimes.

"A decent wage is guaranteed and an opportunity for career advancement, as well as being part of the structure that provides for the country's security are sufficient motives to be an active member," Shala said.

The lightly-armed Kosovo Security Force was established in 2009 in line with the Ahtisaari Plan, and is comprised of 2,500 active and 800 reserve multi-ethnic members. It is primarily responsible for crisis response.

The recent call aims to increase overall minority membership to more than 10 percent, or an increase of 2 percent.

To reach this goal, Kosovo Security Force Minister Agim Ceku organised a number of meetings in Serb localities to convince potential recruits to respond to the call and apply.

Boban Maksimovic, a Serb, joined the force in 2005 when it was the Kosovo Protection Corps, and decided to continue serving after it transformed into the Kosovo Security Force in 2009.

"I would encourage any unemployed youth to apply for the position, because there is nothing to be concerned about. It is a structure that functions normally and its members enjoy a bright future," Maksimovic told SETimes.

Maksimovic said Kosovo Serbs showed interest during the last recruitment call, including Serbs older than 25, but only candidates 18 to 25 were eligible.

The force presented itself in two versions, to Serbs and non-Serbs, according to Florian Qehaja, executive director of the Pristina-based Centre for Security Studies.

The non-Serb group is well represented and there are no issues, Qehaja said, but there is still a problem with integrating Serbs in the force.

"[The Kosovo Security Force's] association with previous security institutions and especially the [Kosovo Liberation Army], and Belgrade's calls to Serbs in Kosovo not to join the [force] will have an impact in discouraging Serbs from [joining]," Qehaja told SETimes.

Transforming the force into an army, which is currently being debated, will be used by Belgrade and Serbian representatives in Kosovo to further discourage employment in the force.

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However, Qehaja said that the minority recruitment campaign showed a real commitment.

It seems Pristina understood, he said, the need for more active policies for minority social integration and socialisation.

"Examples from the region show members of minority communities have not been accommodated well enough among the majority communities, which has resulted in their voluntary withdrawal at the very beginning," Qehaja said.

Is the Kosovo government doing enough to recruit more minorities to the force, and Serbs in particular? Please share your views in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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