Monday, November 15, 2004

Albanians in south Serbia demand same rights as Kosovo Serbs

Representatives of the Presheve Valley [south Serbia] Albanians categorically reject any idea that would lead to territorial division of Kosova [Kosovo] and also demand the same status as the Serb citizens of Kosova.

The Presheve Valley representatives are against any border changes in the Balkans, but if the Kosova Serbs and Belgrade continue to insist on that, then they say that Presheve, too, would call for integration with Kosova, to which it belonged decades ago.

The Serbian political elite has again launched the idea for the partition of Kosova into two entities - the Albanian and the Serbian ones. This idea is regarded as nationalistic and counterproductive not only by Albanians but also by the world decision-making institutions because it is thought that it could "stir the hornet's nest" of all border disputes in the Balkans.

Democratic Party of Albanians [PDSh] chairman Ragmi Mustafa told KosovaLive that his party wanted the Kosova Serbs to enjoy all the rights possible, but, at the same time, his party wanted the Presheve Valley Albanians to enjoy the same rights, too.

"The idea for the partition of Kosova that has been put forward by Belgrade is very dangerous and could lead to new disturbances in the region," Mustafa said. "But, if Belgrade continues to play that card, the Presheve Valley Albanians will demand to join Kosova."

"If they insist on changes, then we will demand the implementation of the referendum of 1 and 2 March 1992," the PDSh leader said.

Twelve years ago, the Albanians of the three municipalities in "southern Serbia" (Presheve, Medvegje [Medvedja] and Bujanoc [Bujanovac]) held a referendum in which the overwhelming majority voted in favour of this region joining Kosova.

LPD [Movement of Democratic Progress] chairman Jonuz Musliu, who was formerly the political representative of the UCPMB [Liberation Army for Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac], was even more radical in his statement to KosovaLive. He said that the Presheve Valley had no future within Serbia because it has done nothing good for the Albanians.

Musliu laid part of the blame for the continuing state terror on the international community, which, he said, was not at all impartial when Albanians were concerned. "The international community treats the Serbs of northern Kosova as though it is their mother, whereas the Albanians as though it is their stepmother," Musliu said.

BDL [Democratic Union of the Valley] chairman Skender Destani, too, rejects any idea that could lead to deterioration of the situation in the region. Destani demands that the status of the Presheve Valley Albanians be advanced hand in hand with the status of the Kosova Serbs, including education, language, national symbols, preservation of contacts with mother country, etc.

Currently, the position of the Presheve Valley Albanians is described as very grave. The Belgrade government, according to politicians from this region, since the end of the 2001 conflict at least, has not shown any interest in advancing the political, cultural, and social position of the Albanians.

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