Kosovo ratifies agreement with Serbia amid tension

29/06/2013

In protests against the latest effort to normalise relations with Serbia, 17 Kosovo police officers were hurt and 68 protesters taken to police stations.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 29/06/13

photo

Vetevendosje supporters tried to prevent MPs from entering the building, but police intervened. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]

The Kosovo parliament's ratification of the agreement on normalisation of relations with Serbia sparked protests by the opposition Vetevendosje Movement.

The agreement, which was ratified on Thursday (June 27th), "regulates the essential aspects for the normalisation of relations between the state of Kosovo and Serbia," Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said.

He added that it opens "the way for the stability in the north of the country by transforming the current security situation, as well as political and economic conditions."

Krstimir Pantic, former Mitrovica North mayor and a leader of Serbs in the north, told Serbian media that Kosovo Serbs will not "go to the polls" in the first local elections to be held in the whole territory of Kosovo on November 3rd, because "they do not want to give legitimacy to the so-called Kosovo independence."

"People in the majority-Serb northern Kosovo made it clear that they oppose Albanian institutions," he said.

"There is no one who'd like to see Serbia's progress and development more than the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, and no one from this territory wants a conflict with their own state. However, all must be aware of reality, the Serbs will not go to the polls that might be held on November 3rd," Pantic told B92.

He added that the situation is more complex than the 15 points the Kosovo agreement addresses.

According to the agreement, Serbia should close all its security structures and stop funding the Serbian Interior Ministry in Kosovo. Both efforts should be finalised by Belgrade by mid-July.

The agreement said that the Kosovo police is the only legitimate police authority in northern Kosovo, the integration of the judicial system of the north into the judicial system of Kosovo is essential to increase the trust of the communities in the Kosovo courts, and improvement of interethnic relations and establishment of the rule of law in the north should be a priority.

According to Vetevendosje, the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia "is an outright violation of Kosovo constitution and republican order."

"It divides Kosovo among ethnic lines by creating a union of Serb municipalities that will function as an autonomous region of Kosovo with a clearly defined territory, executive powers, and a separate budget. It legalises and formalises the political power of Serbia over this union by giving amnesty from criminal proceedings to its illegal state structures that are active within the territory of Kosovo, and establishes a renewed dependency of Kosovo from Serbia," Visar Ymeri, Vetevendosje spokesman, told SETimes.

He added that any agreement which "makes it legally impossible for a particular people of Kosovo to serve in any public post, anywhere in the country, violates basic human rights." This was a reference to the provision of the agreement which said that the northern regional police commander has to be a Serb and judges in the northern courts have to be Serbs.

"This agreement further prevents the integration of the Serbian minority in Kosovo [society] by establishing a political, economic, and social space separate from the rest of the country. It's an agreement that disintegrates the country," he said.

But some Kosovo citizens have differing opinions.

Xhevdet Arifi, 29, a Kosovo citizen, said that any agreement based on the constitution and laws is welcome.

"Sooner or later we have to normalise relations with our neighbours. I hope this agreement will smooth tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, and also that Serbian policy toward Kosovo will finally change. I hope the agreement is completely implemented, not just partially," Arifi told SETimes.

But Bekim Hasani, 34, said the fact remains that Serbia does not recognise Kosovo.

"The agreement should not have been ratified as long as Serbia does not recognise Kosovo, and does not respect its territorial integrity. This agreement violates the Kosovo constitutional system, and does not guarantee recognition from Serbia," Hasani told SETimes.

Dren Doli, a researcher at the Kosovo Group for Legal and Political Studies in Pristina, said the agreement does not fulfil the requirements of an international agreement, unless both parties consent on its effectiveness.

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"Serbia is not recognising this agreement as an international agreement, and consequently has approved it only in the government. This means that the agreement under Serbian law is considered a sub-legal act issued by the government alone," Doli told SETimes.

He added that implementation of the agreement does not require an amendment from Kosovo lawmakers either.

Out of 120 parliamentary seats, 84 votes were in favour of the agreement, three against and one abstained. The voting was completed only after security personnel removed Vetevendosje MPs who interrupted the voting by taking hold of the microphone from Parliamentary Speaker Jakup Krasniqi.

Are you in favour of the Kosovo normalisation agreement? Let us know in your opinion below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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