For the time being there are no good reasons for the Kosmet [KosovoMetohija] Serbs to enter the Kosovo provisional self-government institutions. The situation in Kosmet is unstable, the Serbs continue to be the most threatened national community in Europe. It is a fact that, nevertheless, the international community has, back since the elections for the Kosovo Assembly, continually been putting pressure on the Serbs and official Belgrade to have the Kosmet Serbs enter the provisional institutions. Official Belgrade's answer has been: "No" until significant results are achieved in Vienna in terms of decentralization, Aleksandar Simic, an adviser to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, has told Politika among other things.
Simic said that significant progress would be achieved in terms of decentralization when new municipalities with a Serb majority are created and guarantees offered to the Serbs, through a revision of the Constitutional Framework, that they would be able to protect their rights and interests by means of a qualified majority.
What happens once the new municipalities with a Serb majority are created? Simic said that elections for the municipal authorities would be held first. Once those authorities were constituted, the municipalities with a Serb majority were mutually linked, and they had set up their councils and committees, they would elect lawful Serb representatives to Kosovo's provisional institutions. "We are seeking constitutional guarantees for that, because that is the only way that the Serbs would have an essential role in the decentralization. That is why there has been no progress in the Vienna talks for the time being," Aleksandar Simic said.
Representatives of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija can enter the provisional Kosovo institutions at this point, if they like, but they could not represent the Serb community in them but only themselves, Simic said, and recalled that the List had won the support of merely 0.3 per cent of voters in the elections.
Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija, holds just the opposite view. It is not true that the international community is pressuring the Serbs to enter the Kosovo provisional institutions, Ivanovic has said. He thinks that that initiative is extremely useful for the Serbs and that it is high time that the Kosmet Serbs take part in the work of the provisional institutions. The participation of the Serbs in the work of the provisional institutions is the right solution for a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo[, Ivanovic said].
Representatives of the Serb List for Kosmet have conferred with representatives of the Contact Group and sought a "decentralization to fit the Serbs", that is, the creation of seven to nine new municipalities with a Serb majority. They also asked for guarantees that would protect the rights of the Serbs. "The Serbs should get the right of veto in certain matters or it would be requested that decisions on matters of outstanding importance for the Serbs require the support of 50 per cent of the Albanian and 50 per cent of the Serb deputies. Only then will it be possible to say that the Serbs have protected themselves. Because of what I have said, I think that changes will be made in the Constitutional Framework," Oliver Ivanovic said.
In the coming days the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija will request a meeting with President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of Serbia, which is to be held within two weeks. At that meeting the state leadership should adopt a final position on the participation of the Kosmet Serbs in the provisional institutions. "If the representatives of the state leadership say that the Serbs should not participate in the provisional institutions, we will ask for a good explanation of that," Oliver Ivanovic said.
In addition to that, the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija has invited the other Serb political parties in Kosmet to talks on an agreement on the participation of the Serbs' representatives in the work of the provisional institutions. Ivanovic said that the invitation would be open for another two weeks.
Dr Milan Ivanovic, the chairman of the Serb National Council of Northern Kosovo, has responded to the proposal of the Serb List for Kosmet saying that it was not in a democratic spirit for a majority to join a minority but the other way around.
Ivanovic has said that it was the opinion of an overwhelming majority of Kosmet Serbs that the Serbs should not participate in the work of the provisional institutions, because they would in that way only provide legitimacy [for those institutions] and make it seem that Kosovo was a multi-ethnic and democratic society.
Ivanovic categorically said that the majority of Serbs in Kosmet were against Serbs again entering the Kosovo institutions. That is why a possible "yes" by Tadic and Kostunica to the request of the Serb List for Kosmet for the entry of Serbs into the Kosmet institutions would be understood by the Serb National Council as an imprudent one, for which it would hold the state leadership accountable.
Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 20 Apr 06