Escobar on ASM: It will be formed, the only question is who will form it and how long we have to wait

Eskobar Hovenijer
FOTO: Američka ambasada u Prištini

“They must immediately present a draft of a law that would bring the Association into being now. They have one, they just won’t put it forward,” Gabriel Escobar said in Pristina today when asked about the Association of Serb-majority municipalities as an obligation that was undertaken by the Kosovo government.

The US special envoy, and the European mediator for the Western Balkans and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Gabriel Escobar and Miroslav Lajcak, have ended their two-day stay in Pristina. The reason behind their visit was to de-escalate the crisis that began on May 26th after the Kosovo PM, Albin Kurti, ignored the warnings of the international community, and ordered special police units to occupy three municipal buildings in the north.

In an attempt to calm tensions, the high representatives of Western countries reiterated their demands to the Kosovo Prime Minister as a means of descalating the crisis, proceeding with the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, and forming the ASM.

De-escalation implies the withdrawal of police forces from municipal buildings in Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok, so that the mayors continue to carry out their, as they put it, „administrative“ mandates from alternative locations, and to call local elections with the guaranteed participation of Srpska Lista.

The US-European duo reiterated today that they have been dealing with crisis management for months now instead of working on the implementation of the reached agreements.

“When I started this job, one of the things that I was keen about was the economic integration of the region. If you invest in a Kosovan worker, you’re going to get, on average, ten years of productivity more from that worker. You have things to offer to the international community, not just Europe, but also your neighbors, including Serbia. Unfortunately, we have been in crisis mode, Jeff (cf. the US ambassador to Pristina) his whole time here, has been in crisis mode,” Escobar told a group of journalists, including KoSSev’s editor, in Pristina today.

When asked whether the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities must be formed before the new local elections in the north, Escobar said that he will „leave the sequencing to the EU“.

„You can ask Mr. Lajcak about that,“ he said.

The position of the USA reads that the agreement must be immediately implemented.

“For Kosovo, their only do out is the ASM. We cannot ignore the Association, it’s in the Brussels agreement, the Ohrid agreement, and the European Council conclusions.”

Escobar has no doubt that the ASM will be formed, the only question is „who“ will do it. He also underlined that it can be done in one day.

He also remarked that whenever they talk to Kurti or his deputy, they „only want to talk about Serbia“ instead of being defined by „its own values“.

„It’s going to happen, the question is with who, and how long do we have to wait. We know what the association should look like, we know what it shouldn’t look like. So, we just need to start now. We could have a statute in one day if we wanted to. So, I don’t understand the delay either. Again, for me, it is for Kosovo not to define itself by Serbia, but to define itself by its own values, by its relationship not to the six million people of Serbia, but to the seven hundred million people of the Euro-Atlantic community, that’s what we want. We want you to define yourself that way. Yet, whenever we talk to the PM and his deputy PM, all they ever want to talk about is Serbia. We want to talk about greater integration. With the association, on European terms, under protection of minority rights, I have a platform under which I can go to other European countries and say: ‘They’ve done everything asked, so we need to move forward on other benefits to Kosovo.’ And I cannot get there if Kosovo doesn’t do its part of the agreement“.

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