Belgrade does not support interim Kosovo Serb assembly

20/07/2013

Serbian officials say the formation of an interim assembly of Kosovo Serbs is not in compliance with the Brussels agreement.

By Biljana Pekusic and Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Belgrade and Pristina -- 20/07/13

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Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said formation of the interim assembly "does not help Kosovo Serbs." [AFP]

Serbian officials have advised leaders of the Serb communities in northern Kosovo that the formation of an interim assembly of Kosovo and Metohija is out of step with the Brussels agreement between Belgrade and Pristina.

While Serbia and Kosovo agreed that an association of Serb communities in northern Kosovo would be created after municipal elections this fall, leaders of the four Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo established the interim assembly on July 4th.

"Serbs in northern Kosovo will not implement the Brussels agreement and not vote on the decisions and laws in Pristina," said Ljubomir Radovic, deputy mayor of Zvecan, adding that Serbian municipalities will not accept the constitution and legal system of "another state, unrecognised and illegally created."

"Our capital is Belgrade, our republic is Serbia. We do not want another country, another citizenship or legal order," Radovic said.

No representatives of the Serbian government attended the formation of the assembly, and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said the action "does not help Kosovo Serbs."

"Serbia and Serbs should learn from history to do what is best for them, not what is to their detriment," Dacic said, adding that no one informed the Serbian government that the interim assembly was being organised, and that it is not in accordance with the laws and constitution of Serbia.

Asked how Belgrade would respond, Dacic said, "There can't be a reaction to something that does not exist."

Milovan Drecun, chairman of the Serbian parliament's Committee for Kosovo, also advised Serbs in northern Kosovo to alter their course.

"The Brussels agreement is an integral part of the Serbian state policy, which means that there is no place for any different actions except formation of the association of Serbian municipalities after the local elections on November 3rd," Drecun told SETimes.

Oliver Ivanovic, state secretary for Kosovo and Metohija in Serbia's previous government, who lives in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, said establishment of the assembly created conflict between northern Kosovo leaders and the government in Belgrade.

"It does not lead to a good outcome because we cannot survive in northern Kosovo without the co-operation and joint action with the government of Serbia," Ivanovic told SETimes.

Dusan Janjic, director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, told SETimes that resistance to the Brussels agreement is being driven by nationalism.

"This is happening for two reasons. The first is that the Serbian anti-European parties believe a frozen conflict should be maintained and that in any future there should be a return of Kosovo to Serbia. The second is that the application of the Brussels agreement, particularly for Serbs in the north, lessens the ability of them to earn large profits through activities outside any system and law," Janjic said.

Belul Beqaj, a political commentator and lecturer at Kosovo's Universum College, said he is not convinced that Belgrade had no knowledge of plans to form the interim assembly.

"It is impossible that those who have created those institutions have not been asked to do so," Beqaj told SETimes, adding that Serb leaders in northern Kosovo could create a political bloc that would enter local elections and continue to govern with direction from Belgrade.

But leaders in the northern municipalities expressed their resistance to moving forward as outlined in the Brussels agreement. Slavko Stevanovic, mayor of Leposavic, was elected chairman of the interim assembly and spoke at its opening session against the recognition of an independent Kosovo.

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"Only a democratic and economically strong Serbia can help the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija, but we cannot accept that the price of Serbia joining the EU is the loss of territory and forced integration into the institutions of an unrecognised state," Stevanovic said.

Kosovo's government downplayed the significance of the moves.

"This assembly does not have any judicial implication, not even in practice, and even more when the government of Serbia itself does not support such an organisation. This is the intention of the illegal political structures to become a factor, to survive politically. As such, it remains more their wish than anything else," Rroksana Qarri, spokesperson for the Kosovo Interior Ministry told SETimes.

How should Belgrade and Pristina urge Kosovo Serbs to disband the interim assembly? Share your opinion below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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