After Srpska Lista broke its promise to withdraw from Pristina institutions if the talks on ASM did not start by the end of November, the largest Kosovo Serb party breached another one of its deadlines – that it would leave institutions if this body is not formed by the end of the year. Once again, SL officials did not respond to our calls. Assistant at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade, Stefan Surlic, estimates that SL’s promise is actually a „short-term alibi“ for going to the polls. Belgrade is the one who decides on participation in Kosovo institutions, he adds.
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 announced 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.
“No people from the north will remain part of Pristina institutions,“ Rakic said at the time. 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, and the institutions continued operating smoothly.
On the same night, Rakic revealed the second part of the “ultimatum” on the withdrawal from the institutions, also in connection to the formation of the ASM.
„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.
Although 2021 ended, this body has yet to be formed, and the talks on its formation in Brussels never came to be.
“SL does not speak the language of the ultimatum, it was the message of the Serb people”
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.
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 at the time.
Pristina refuses to form the ASM, despite warnings from the EU
Moreover, the representatives of Pristina have repeatedly underlined that they will not form this body. They furthermore claimed 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.“
After the events in November, Kosovo officials, mostly from the ruling party – Self-Determination, continued to claim that they would not allow the formation of the ASM, alleging that it is „an unconstitutional agreement that the Kosovo Constitutional Court confirmed in 2015.“
On the other hand, Belgrade has repeatedly accused Pristina of not respecting what was agreed, i.e. not fulfilling „the only obligation it had“.
In December, however, the European Union also firmly emphasized that the ASM must be formed, but pessimistic messages could be heard on several occasions that the parties were not ready to continue the dialogue.
After a meeting with Kurti in Brussels at the end of 2021, the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, said that he does not consider the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo an obstacle to the formation of the ASM, reminding once again that Belgrade and Pristina made a joint decision on the agreement on a voluntary basis – in accordance with international norms.
We will continue to call for the formation of the ASM, Borrell said at the time.
„Waiting for Godot“
And while the EU and Belgrade continue to demand the formation of the ASM, and Pristina continues to insist on Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo without the formation of the ASM, KoSSev unsuccessfully attempted to obtain answers from SL leaders on whether they will fulfill their promise and withdraw from the institutions. However, just like the inquiry regarding the November promise to leave the institutions, our questions remain unanswered.
The chief and vice-president of Srpska Lista, Goran Rakic and Igor Simic, did not respond to our calls, or the inquiries we sent them via Viber.
This is not the first time that Srpska Lista threatened to withdraw from Kosovo institutions. Despite numerous announcements, the largest Kosovo Serb party had never actually done so. Read more:
Surlic: The promise of the SL is an alibi for going to the polls, Belgrade decides on participation in institutions
Commenting on the SL announcement on the withdrawal from the institutions if the ASM is not formed by the end of 2021, the assistant at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade, Stefan Surlic, says that it is an „unrealistic promise that had a pre-election purpose“.
„At that moment, they were looking for an argument – why would they go to the polls if it does not fundamentally change the position of Kosovo Serbs, participation in government and institutions,“ Surlic said.
According to him, SL will remain in the institutions, and it will not make any „radical moves“ without Belgrade’s consent, especially ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections in Serbia.
„Belgrade pays attention to international actors and is aware that this move (cf. leaving the institutions) would have a more negative effect than positive. They want to present the Serbian side as the most constructive one, and that it, despite the lack of formation of the ASM, still remains part of the institutions. If (Srpska Lista) withdraws, then that would mean a change – that both sides are hindering the dialogue and that both sides are taking a step back,“ claims Surlic.
He advised SL leaders not to make promises that they cannot fulfill.
And as to why they did that – they have some deadlines and those are the last deadlines, and in the end, it turned out that it was just a kind of short-term alibi at that moment and a justification for why they are going to the polls
„They should avoid making such statements, as they only weaken their legitimacy in the long run. If you really commit and give some deadlines, then it is expected that those deadlines will be met. In this way, in the long run, it only shows that the SL does not decide on anything and that the deadlines they set will not be respected and that no measures will be taken due to non-compliance,“ claims Surlic.
Furthermore, he concluded that the decision on (non)participation of SL in institutions is actually made by Belgrade.
Surlic reminded of the messages this party sent on the eve of the local elections in Kosovo – that they are „unanimously against going to the polls“, but also that after „consultations“ with the President of Serbia, it was decided that they would go to the polls anyway.
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