Presevo Valley Albanians want the same rights as Serbs in northern Kosovo.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 12/06/13
Residents of Pristina held a demonstration in January in support of ethnic Albanians living in Serbia's Presevo Valley. [AFP]
Kosovo's parliament passed a resolution that seeks to protect the rights of ethnic Albanians living in Presevo Valley in southern Serbia, equating their status with that of the Serb population in Kosovo's north.
"Kosovo should ask for full reciprocity with the rights of the minority Serbs in the north of Kosovo," read the resolution, which was approved on June 6th.
Lutfi Haziri, an MP from the Democratic League of Kosovo who initiated the resolution, said Kosovo has obligations to protect rights of the Albanians in the valley.
"It is about the ethnic, civic and political rights of the Albanians in these three municipalities," Haziri told SETimes.
The resolution comes as Belgrade is preparing to meet with Albanians from Presevo Valley to discuss participation in state-owned institutions, economic recovery in the municipalities, official use of Albanian language, as well as education and health issues.
Zoran Stankovic, president of the Co-ordination Body of the Serbian government for Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, told SETimes that Serbia respects the national rights of the Albanians living in these municipalities and it respects the applicable domestic and international legislation.
He said an initial meeting between Presevo Valley leaders and Serbian officials, including Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, will be held no later than July 15th. Additional meetings will be held in September.
"The government of Serbia and the co-ordination body are ready to solve all problems of the citizens of this part of Serbia, which have been suggested by the representatives of the Albanian political parties during talks over the past few months," Stankovic told SETimes.
However, Dragan Popovic, director of the Policy Centre in Belgrade, said the resolution did not provoke serious reaction in Serbia, adding that it was "just a part of the side effects of the Brussels agreement."
Presevo Mayor Ragmi Mustafa welcomed the resolution. He told SETimes that it is meaningful for Albanians in the valley because it "urges the government of Kosovo to condition relations with Serbia in order [equalise the] rights of the Albanians in Presevo Valley with [those of] the Serbs in north [Kosovo]."
Samet Fejzullahu, a Presevo Albanian, said residents of the valley need Kosovo's help to bolster education, social and economic rights.
"We do not have a faculty [university], we do not have hospitals, our young people leave Presevo every day and move to Europe and to the world because there is no economy and no jobs. No factory is working, we have the lowest income in Serbia and the prices are very high. Even when we cross to Kosovo, we have to pay the 20 euros tax," Fejzullahu told SETimes. "Our rights should be protected ..., we ask Kosovo to help us. Serbia has not done these things for us."
Correspondent Biljana Pekusic in Belgrade contributed to this report.
To what extent can reciprocal rights for minority communities help to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia? Share your thoughts in the comments section.