Andric Rakic: The meeting failed to fulfill legal requirements, what will be built on the expropriated land was not revealed

FOTO: KoSSev

„You are getting some very serious objections and you will find yourself in that situation again until you start doing your job properly. So far, you have not been doing so, and you are here today under the pressure from the international community,“ Milica Andric Rakic from the NGO „New Social Initiative“ told the representatives of the Expropriation Department from Pristina at today’s public discussion on land expropriation in Zubin Potok.

More than 138 hectares of land were expropriated in the last six months in Leposavic and Zubin Potok. The Kosovo government justified its decisions in one brief announcement: The expropriations were carried out due to „infrastructural projects of public importance.“ The decision was met by protests from residents, who expressed their dissatisfaction and concern. It was only after the EU reacted, objecting to the procedure, that the Kosovo authorities decided to schedule two public discussions on the issue – one was held in Leposavic last week and the other today in Zubin Potok.

The public discussion was attended by the owners of the expropriated plots, their legal representatives, and political and NGO representatives, including Milica Andric Rakic.

According to Andric Rakic, today’s public discussion failed to fulfill legal requirements, as the residents and the public were not notified as to what would be built on the expropriated land.

„Until you clearly state what you plan to do with each plot, you cannot claim that you have articulated to us what exactly the ‘public interest’ is that would justify expropriation being carried out,“ argued Andric Rakic.

„You are getting some very serious objections and you will find yourself in that situation again until you start doing your job properly. So far, you have not been doing so, and you are here today under the pressure from the international community.“

This is precisely why public discussions will be held „again and again“ until the landowners get a proper explanation as to what will be built on their plots, she argued.

„For you to show the finished project, justified from the aspect of economic development, but also environmental protection and all other aspects that you have to cover as per the law“.

In her words, representatives of the Kosovo government did not „have a good time“ at either discussion – both the previous one in Leposavic and today’s discussion held in Zubin Potok.

She declared that the Director of the Expropriation Department of the Kosovo government attended today’s public debate under pressure from the international community – „having to justify the legal basis, that is, the public interest.“

„You cannot claim that you are enforcing the law. Your approach to the law today is so liberal, it’s fascinating. How can you say that a citizen is obliged to address you in the Albanian language? You are a representative of an institution, you must respect both languages. Citizens are not required to know both languages, nor to think about the ethnicity of the competent official.“

Andric Rakic had a suggestion for the Expropriation Department, namely, that they should come to the next discussion – which she says will have to be held – with ready answers for the owners.

She also told the Director of the Expropriation Department that he cannot talk about economic development and „convince“ people that a road should be built on 15ha of land.

„What kind of a road is being built on 15 ha? Or, as you slowly began to explain, what kind of expansion of the existing crossing. What crossing covers 15 ha?“

Andric Rakic alleged that the Kosovo government may be „lying“ to its representatives, but at the same time the director of the Department for Expropriation is passing those lies on to the people, i.e. the residents of Zubin Potok, thus „putting his personal and institutional integrity on the line“.

„You are turning yourself into a criminal here,“ this civil activist told the government representatives.

Representatives of the Expropriation Department, on the other hand, rebuffed all of today’s objections and accusations. They referred to the Law on Expropriation, which they read out loud at the very beginning of the discussion.

Questions from locals, civil representatives, and lawyers as to „what is being built“ remained unanswered. The representatives of the Expropriation Department from Pristina kept reiterating the messages on „road construction,“ laying „optical cables,“ „economic development,“ „increasing security,“ and the „welfare of the citizens themselves and children.“ To the claims that expropriation holds no public interest, the Director of the Expropriation Department said that if there was no public interest, they would not be at the discussion today.

The director of the Department also said that he visited parts of Leposavic and Zubin Potok, after which he deduced that there is a lack of economic development, as well as necessary road infrastructure.

When the representatives of the government stated that roads would be built to connect Zubin Potok with the villages in the municipality, the lawyers pointed out that this is not in line with the law, because the government is not the one responsible for local roads within a municipality, but the municipality itself. On the other hand, representatives of the Kosovo government said that they received requests for the construction of road infrastructure from both the residents of Leposavic and Zubin Potok.

As far as economic development is concerned, today’s guests from Pristina only revealed that projects are in development, without specifying which ones, but in order to implement them, security levels must be increased.

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