Donnerstag, 7. Januar 2010

Kosovo: Northern Volatility

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kosovo: Northern Volatility

Though the holiday season continues for Serbs, with Orthodox Christmas on the 6th and 7th, things still happen. Though the main event may seem the visit by Serbian President Tadić to central Kosovo, the north continues to bubble. On January 4, local Serbs threw stones at Albanians trying to continue construction in the sensitive Brdjani area of north Mitrovica and torched their truck. Early the next day, the home of a Albanian living in a nearby mixed area (Kodra e Minatoreve) was the target of a grenade attack for the third time in recent weeks. (He reportedly has been considering selling to Serbs.) As has been usual so far, there were no serious injuries as such actions usually are meant only to send messages and mark lines. But the EU in pursuing its northern strategy (see previous posting) should not underestimate the tensions that remain very much near the surface.

Nevertheless, Pristina and its friends appear to be sticking to the EU's script. This week, Kosovo President Sejdiu requested assistance from the International Civilian Representative (ICR - the chief EU rep in Kosovo) and EULEX to "dissolve" Serb 'parallel" structures in Kosovo, meaning the Serbian municipal governments elected in May 2008. (Pristina opposed these elections held under Serbian law.) The Kosovo government also protested Belgrade's recent appointment of judges and prosecutors to work in the northern court. The ICR's office (ICO) reportedly stated that actions designed to weaken Kosovo’s legal structures are "unacceptable." The ICO spokesperson made clear that “our stance is that the Republic of Kosovo has its own judicial structure." Consistent with this non-status neutral stance, EULEX has been trying to impose a Kosovo court on the north and continuing these effort is also part of the EU strategy. A EULEX spokesperson told the press that “our priority at the moment is to return Kosovo Serb and Albanian judges and prosecutors to the District Court of
Mitrovica” because there "will be only one judicial system operating in Kosovo."

Also in the UNMIK press summary of January 5, the incoming mayor of south Mitrovica emphasized that “the northern and southern parts of Mitrovica will be one.” Avni Kastrati - a good and honest man who believes strongly in the return of displaced Albanians to the north - reportedly pledged to rebuild all Albanian houses in the northern Mitrovica. He added that “I will certainly also work on the return of others to the southern part of the municipality, if they really are willing to do so." This is a fair position but only if it remains as a goal for the future, after agreement among all concerned on mutual returns throughout Kosovo. Unilateral efforts to return to the north - as witnessed in Brdjani - run a grave risk of violence and renewed ethnic conflict in which more than "messages" may be delivered.... 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kosovo: EU Strategy for the North

About a month ago, the EU office in Pristina began formulating its 2010 strategy to serve as “the basis for coordinated policies and actions” in northern Kosovo. The document makes clear the two fundamentals of EU policy for the north, it aims at bringing the northern Serbs under the Pristina government and it foresees replacing the UN role there without a new UN Security Council resolution.

The strategy defines its objectives clearly:

• The Kosovo government with its international supporters will create a new municipality of Mitrovica North through elections and functions under “the Kosovo legal framework” by mid 2010.
• The Kosovo government will hold its own municipal elections in the three northern municipalities which will “function within the Kosovo legal framework by the end of 2010.”
• In the same timeframe, “parallel institutions” will be “marginalized” and the UNMIK office for North Mitrovica (UAM) “closed.”
• EULEX will enhance its presence “throughout northern Kosovo” and “significantly strengthen ... the rule of law, with more effective courts, policing, and customs” there.

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