Serbian police commander for north concerns Kosovo Serbs

27/06/2013

Anxious about their security, locals take a wait-and-see attitude toward the new commander.

By Linda Karadaku and Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 27/06/13

photo

New regional commander Nenad Djuric will oversee Kosovo police in the country's north. [AFP]

In what is being hailed as an additional step in security for northern Kosovo, the new regional police commander for Kosovo's north has assumed his post, per the Belgrade-Pristina agreement on normalisation of relations.

Kosovo selected Nenad Djuric, former head of the Zvecan municipality police station, as commander amid praises of progress by Kosovo officials and expressions of concern among Kosovo Serbs.

Djuric will act as director in charge of Kosovo's regional police directorate in Mitrovica, and will be formally appointed after Kosovo holds local elections on its entire territory on November 3rd.

"[T]he level of security in Kosovo is stable and [all is] quiet, including the region of Mitrovica," Baki Kelani, a spokesperson for the Kosovo Police, told SETimes.

But local Serbs, like Dragisa Milovic, head of the Zvecani municipality in northern Kosovo, said Djuric's appointment is symbolic at best and will not contribute to protecting Serbs.

"If he has no authority to run the police and make executive decisions, then this is nothing but deception. They can say how this is a big concession to Belgrade, but basically everything will stay the same," Milovic told SETimes.

Milovic added that the appointment will be purposeful only if Djuric manages special units in the country's north and is directly in charge of sanctioning all criminal offenses there.

Kosovo officials disagree.

"Solving the issue of the north will be the biggest step to Kosovo's overall security. This part of Kosovo is keeping the entire state unsecure," Burim Ramadani, member of the parliamentary commission for the supervision of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, told SETimes.

Ramadani said that only by extending Pristina's legal control to the north can crime be halted. "It is very important that the people in the north feel safe and secure as well and co-operate with the Kosovo police," Ramadani said.

Many Serbs, however, are not sure what to expect.

"There is much distrust toward the Brussels agreement and this is a part of it. All we can do is wait and see how everything will pan out in the field. It will take time to convince us it is all in the interest of our security and we will truly be able to sleep more peacefully at night," Stanko Tesic, 43, a lawyer from Mitrovica, told SETimes.

"We are insufficiently informed about all that is going on, and we have had bad experiences in the past. Here in Mitrovica we do not feel safe enough and cannot go wherever and whenever we want freely. I doubt that will change with the arrival of the new regional police commander," Milan Rajic, a 22-year-old student, told SETimes.

Experts point to experiences in neighbouring Macedonia, which regionalised its police following the 2001 armed rebellion by ethnic Albanians.

The interior minister appoints commanders of Macedonia's eight regional police sectors, but local municipal councils appoint the commanders of the police stations.

"[T]he appointment of the police commanders by the local councils has made them more dependent on political influence. The majority in the council, which is political, chooses the commander, so he feels greater responsibility towards the majority political party than to the interior minister," Pavle Trajanov, former interior minister of Macedonia, told SETimes.

By contrast, in Croatia, where 200,000 Serbs constitute the largest minority in the country, the police are centralised in Zagreb.

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Serbian representatives in Croatia said officers treat them very fairly, but few Serbs have opportunities to work in the force despite Croatia's constitutional obligation for proportional representation in employment in minority-dominated areas.

"[I]n the municipality of Ogulin, in which Serbs constitute 23 percent, only two Serbs work as policemen. So, we have a police force, which is respecting the law, but the government does not respect the constitution," Milan Rodic, president of the Serbian People's Party from Croatia, told SETimes.

Drazen Remikovic in Zagreb and Biljana Lajmanovska in Skopje contributed to this report.

Will the appointment of Nenad Djuric as regional police commander improve security for Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo?

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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