Serbian Officials encourage Destabilization in Northern Kosovo

BogdanovicPRISTINA, Kosovo — Reportedly several officials from the Serbian Government crossed the border to Kosovo illegally. On Friday 3rd June, Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, entered the mainly Serb populated northern Kosovo territory without permission from the Kosovo Government. In the Serb controlled northern Mitrovica Bogdano- vic then officially presented a Serbian government donation of 350,000 Euro cash for Kosovo-Serb owned enterprises. Already a day before, on 2nd. June – the head of the Serbian delegation for the Dialogue with Kosovo, Broko Stefanovic paid an illegal visit to the same region. Bypassing the official border controls, Stefanovic obviously used the smuggler routes from Serbia to Kosovo. 

On 1st. June Kosovo Police stopped a whole cohort of senior Serbian officials at the border: The Serbian Minister of Education Zarko Obradovic, the Secretary of the Serbian Parliament Veljko Odalovic and the parliamentary head of the Serbian Socialist Party Branko Ruzic. Ruzic even requested from Kosovo officials to apologize for being stopped at the border.

More subtle Stevanovic stated that by visiting Kosovo, he aims at stabilizing the situation: “We are trying to respect all required procedures and not to raise tensions”. Contrasting his own statement he then raised tensions instead: According to Stefanovic "unilateral steps of Pristina," such as the arrest of the "businessmen" Pantelic and the replacement of the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) commanders in northern Kosovo, may have a negative impact on the EU backed talks in Brussels and "the overall situation". A threat. As to the question, if the division of Kosovo will be a topic at the next round of talks between Kosovo and Serbia, Stefanovic said: “we are ready to discuss all topics.”

Serbian Minister Bogdanovic used his visit to justify the weeks-lasting road-blockade in the Serb populated Kosovar municipality of Zubin Potok as an answer to the arrest of a local "businessmen" as well: “I made it quite clear … all criminals from the entire territory of Kosovo should be prosecuted and punished. But people cannot be arrested … just because they did not pay the taxes and customs duties to the so-called state of Kosovo”.

According to Bogdanovic another reason for the road blockade should be seen in the "provocation" through the Kosovo Government by opening public service branches in northern Kosovo. By this, Bogdanovic stated, the Prishtina-led Government tries to destabilize the situation in the northern part of the "Serbian province of Kosovo": “We are prepared for any kind of talks and agreements, but we do not want anyone to impose solutions upon us and work contrary the interests of Serb community as Pristina is doing now”. The Serbian Minister moreover emphasized that the Serbian government implements a "completely clear policy toward Kosovo … based on the Serbian Constitution".

Regarding their approach to accuse the Kosovo government to destabilize the situation in the Serb populated northern Kosovo, it is interesting to remind what Serbian officials didn’t say: Even without recognizing Kosovo, Serbia agreed to the UN resolution 12/1999 and so to the subsequent regulations including an administrative separation of Kosovo from Serbia under UNMIK rule, within the borders of Kosovo from 1989 (before Milosevic annulled the Kosovo autonomy status and intensified the Serbian apartheid system). The EU rule of law mission EULEX now is working under the same UN resolution with permission and on behalf of UNMIK. And the visit of Serbian officials were not announced,  neither to any of these institutions nor to the Kosovo Government. 

Further on the Serbs in Kosovo do not only refuse paying tax to Kosovo institutions – they also don’t pay to Serbian institutions. In addition they don’t pay for further services. Kosovo Serbs in north Kosovo don’t suffer but profit from the existing legal vacuum and therefore aim at maintaining instability. If it’s so simple to justify this by their rejection of Kosovar institutions, why then Serbia doesn’t apply the same principle of "self-determination" to the Albanians in southern Serbia, who want to join Kosovo?

As far it concerns the arrest of the Kosovo Serb "businessman" and former Serbian police officer Pantelic, the arrest was not implemented by Kosovo Government forces, but by EULEX police assisted by KFOR troops: The also from Serbia respected institutions in Kosovo. Afterwards KFOR commander Buehler clearly stated, that the arrest was not caused only by refusing to pay tax. So different from what Serbian Minister Bogdanovic pretended top be the reason: Is Serbia again hiding criminals?

Remarkable is the Serbian complaint against service branches of the Kosovo government in Kosovo-Serb municipalities: It seems Serbian officials don’t trust their "own people". Nobody is forced to make use of such offices – subsequently the rejection is based on the fear, that Serbs in Kosovo would cooperate voluntarily. Here the question is inevitable: Is Serbia putting pressure on Kosovo Serbs to keep distance from Kosovo service centers? If yes, then its not far from considering the same pressure in terms of raised tensions and road blockades, which hardly harm any Kosovo-Albanian but many Kosovo Serbs.  

Almost funny – if not so sad under current circumstances – is the behavior of local Kosovo-Serbian police commanders. Nobody forced them to join Kosovo police. Nobody forced them to sign a labour contract which clearly foresees a chain of command within Kosovo government institutions. Now they are wearing uniforms from Kosovo and receive salaries from the Kosovo budget, but refuse to take orders from supreme Kosovo officials. Is this behavior due to Serb patriotism – or due to the second income paid from Serbia, to split their loyalty? Or how else a few hundred protesters may resist over such a long time without being backed by a big brother?  

The reason of the Serbian cold war style provocations and disinformation seems clear: The Serbian government aims at putting pressure on the official talks of Kosovo and Serbia in terms of discussing a future Kosovo status and a separation of northern Kosovo territories. On the one hand the "good guy", Serbian President Tadic insists on never giving up Kosovo at all. On the other hand those, who were given the role of the "bad boys", Stefanovic, Bogdanovic and deputy prime minister Dacic, currently initiate a true chorus of different and confusing proposals for the future of Kosovo: From simply dividing it without recognition of Kosovo as an independent state – to sharing it with Albania.   

However, the Kosovo Government is good advised not to make any concession. Kosovo is anyway very far away from reaching EU candidate status or even membership. It’s a question of decades, if ever. So, not much to lose – only for Serbia: They will not fulfill the Copenhagen criteria if they continue like this.  

KON /NK – Korrik Sofalia

This article was first published on Technorati – Politics!

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