If talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the formation of the ASM do not start in November, Srpska Lista will leave all Pristina institutions at all levels in the north – Srpska Lista chief, Goran Rakic, declared ahead of local elections in Kosovo. Although November ended without talks on the ASM between the two delegations in Brussels, it seems that Srpska Lista representatives in the north decided to hold on to their posts. The top officials of this party did not respond to our calls, nor have they made any public announcements. On the other hand, KoSSev’s interlocutors remind that „promises were made then forgotten“ in the past as well, emphasizing that nothing will change.
On the eve of the first round of local elections in Kosovo, following several weeks of crisis in the north over the issue of license plates and the Kosovo Police action which resulted in a conflict between citizens and special forces, Srpska Lista chief, Goran Rakic, decided to send a message to Belgrade, Pristina and Brussels through the media.
At the time, Rakic confirmed that SL will participate in the elections and called on the citizens to vote. He also made another announcement that SL will abandon Kosovo institutions at all levels in the north if talks on the formation of the ASM do not begin in November, and if the ASM is not formed, with clear competencies, by the end of the year.
„If talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the formation of the ASM do not start in November, I inform all relevant factors, Pristina, Belgrade, and Brussels, especially our citizens, that we will leave all Pristina institutions at all levels in the north, and resign as mayors, heads of local self-government in the north. No people from the north will remain part of Pristina institutions,“ Rakic said at the time.
This is not the first time that Srpska Lista threatened to withdraw from Kosovo institutions. Since 2018, SL threatened to withdraw a total of five times.
Despite numerous announcements, the largest Kosovo Serb party has never actually done so. Although frequently skipping parliament sessions, SL members are regularly on the payroll of Kosovan institutions.
The first deadline has passed since the SL chief made this announcement; however, no talks on the formation of the ASM took place.
Moreover, Pristina representatives have repeatedly underlined that they will not form this body, declaring that „those Serbs who believed in the promise of SL on the formation of the ASM and voted for this party because of that were manipulated.“
A new round of dialogue was held in mid-November, however, because of the disagreement between the parties on whether the formation of this body should be discussed or not, no trilateral meeting took place. Instead, representatives of Belgrade and Pristina met separately with EU officials.
In late November, following the unsuccessful talks in Brussels, when asked about SL’s ultimatum, the head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petkovic, practically denied Rakic’s announcement.
„Neither we nor SL speak the language of the ultimatum, it was the message of the Serb people who were held at gunpoint by ROSU for three weeks, the people who were shot at by Kurti’s special forces and who stood in the rain and frost for two weeks defending their basic right to freedom of movement even after the first drop of Serb blood fell in the north of Kosovo when Srecko Sofronijevic was seriously injured. The Serbian people are fed up with the fact that they have been waiting for almost nine years to exercise their collective rights contained in the ASM, while at the same time Pristina tolerates all violations of agreements and contracts,“ Petkovic said.
Taking into account that Kosovo’s institutions in northern Kosovo continue to operate and that in the meantime, new councilors and mayors in ten Serb-majority municipalities have been sworn in this week, we tried to find out if and when SL members will withdraw from the institutions in the north.
The vice presidents of SL, Igor Simic and Dalibor Jevtic, however, did not respond to our calls.
What do analysts have to say?
Andric-Rakic: Withdrawing from institutions would invalidate the political capital of SL and present Serbia as the unconstructive side
„I don’t think it’s realistic for SL to abandon Kosovo institutions, neither due to the lack of negotiations on the formation of the ASM nor because of the non-formation of the ASM. I don’t expect the scenario in which they would only resign from their posts in the government or hand over mandates, nor the more radical scenario where they call on local government employees, police, judiciary to boycott institutions,“ Andric Rakic said in a statement for KoSSev.
According to Andric Rakic, such occasional announcements of SL are not actually directed towards the Serb community – but the international one.
„With it, they are trying to say – we control the level and pace of integration, we can delegitimize Kosovo institutions, and if you do not put pressure on Pristina, the decade-long process of integration and building of Kosovo institutions in the north, in which you have invested a lot, will be jeopardized,“ Rakic said, noting that such message is also the reason why SL will not withdraw from the institutions.
“Their participation and control of these institutions represent their greatest political capital,” she added.
„A possible withdrawal from the institutions would not only invalidate that capital, but it would turn Serbia into the unconstructive side in the dialogue, which is a role that has been lately reserved for Pristina,“ she estimated, adding that the formation of the ASM means the continuation of the integration of important institutions – such as health and education.
Delaying this as much as possible suits both Belgrade and SL, while Pristina is their biggest ally in that
„In that context, I also perceive the message of Petkovic (cf. the head of the Kosovo Office), who often makes efforts to show the difference between Pristina as ‘unconstructive and irresponsible’ and Belgrade, which is always ‘ready for dialogue and maintaining the peace,'“ she added.
Commenting on Petkovic’s allegations that the „SL does not give ultimatums“, Andric Rakic said that it was a message to the international community on Belgrade’s power to „‘restrain’ Serbs in Kosovo, as was the case in 2013.“
According to Andric Rakic, the issue of forming the ASM is the key to reaching a final agreement. She emphasized that, given the situation in Pristina, the negotiations on the ASM have never been less realistic despite the strong pressure from the international community.
„Pristina has a government with a strong mandate and many see it as an opportunity to solve big issues. We can see that in the example of the Decani monastery and the decisions of the Constitutional Court and the determination of international representatives to keep this topic in focus. The support Kurti received for the introduction of reciprocity for license plates was not without reserve, and now is the time for him to show how the rule of law must be carried out in Decani, not only in the north.“
„Despite numerous negative interpretations from Pristina, the Kosovo Constitutional Court first said that the agreement on the ASM formation in 2013 was ratified in the Kosovo Assembly, which makes its formation an international obligation,“ Andric Rakic concluded.
Dimitrijevic: Many promises of SL have not been fulfilled
Commenting on the SL announcement, the editor-in-chief of Radio Gorazdevac, Darko Dimitrijevic, says that the journalists „heard many promises of SL that went unfulfilled.“
„Fortunately, some journalists remember those unfulfilled promises. Regardless of what those promises refer to, maybe the fact that journalists remember to ask them about it is the reason why they do not come to our shows or accept invitations for interviews,“ Dimitrijevic said.
He stated that he does not know whether SL will leave the institutions because he and the media outlet he heads have no contact with SL.
Even when we try to contact them, we receive no reply – he added.
This promise will be just like one of the many others, Dimitrijevic said, recalling that the party announced on several occasions that it will withdraw from the institutions.
Apart from not believing that SL will leave the institutions, Dimitrijevic also does not believe that the ASM will be formed.
„It is clear that the ASM will not be formed, even though Pristina has committed itself to it. They refer to the opinion of the Constitutional Court in this case, while at the same time denying the final decision of that court when it comes to the property of the Serbian people, especially the property of the monastery Visoki Decani,“ Dimitrijevic underlined.
In his words, the Kosovo Serb community is “in a vacuum between the Serb and Kosovo systems.”
“Within it, it is highly discriminated against, without the right to language, work, and employment in institutions, without the right to the return of their property… However, it is important to respect the signed agreement on the ASM even though it would serve as an excuse for some other concessions,“ Dimitrijevic estimates.
He added that the “very mild and ineffective” reactions of the international community to this „legal violence“ in Kosovo are very harmful and send a bad message to the local society.
The Radio Gorazdevac editor also commented on the statement of the head of the Kosovo Office, saying that he shares Petkovic’s opinion that the language of the ultimatum was the wrong approach.
Kurti must speak in the language of an ultimatum, which he calls reciprocity, in order to reach „mutual recognition“, but he forgets that Serbia does not need it because it is an internationally recognized state, while he needs Serbia’s consent for something like that – Dimitrijevic said.
“Petkovic would probably disagree with me on this – the incident and the police incursion to the north, apart from being useful to Kurti before the local elections due to poor ratings, also absolutely suited SL’s election campaign. And this party once again used the opportunity to present itself as the protector of Kosovo Serbs,“ Dimitrijevic concluded.
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