„The president was ready to support every decision we made, as I said just now – our decision, that is, the unanimous decision of the party bodies was not to go to the polls. However, we made a joint decision at that meeting to go to the polls tomorrow. Thus, we maintained the right to make a decision exclusively in the interest of the Serb people,“ the Srpska Lista chief and the minister in the Kosovo government, Goran Rakic, said at a press conference in North Mitrovica on Saturday.
Rakic held the press conference in the presence of three mayors from the north and candidate for mayor of Zvecan.
Even though the electoral silence was underway, Rakic repeatedly called on the citizens to vote and do so in as large a number as possible. Underlining that he does not want to tell the citizens for whom they should vote precisely because of electoral silence, Rakic stated that the people, however, know very well for whom they should cast their votes.
While predicting the outcome of the elections, Rakic 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, adding:
„The end of the year is the deadline when the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities must be formed, if it is not formed by that time, as I mentioned, we will leave all institutions at all levels.“
He stressed, however, that the ASM must have clearly outlined authorities and competencies. This SL official also claimed that special police units would not have entered the north if the ASM had been formed.
„If ROSU occupies the north again – and it has nothing to do there, we will instantly review further dealings with all institutions and decide on what to do next. To put it clearly, the people will not want them there and they are not welcome in the north.“
Rakic revealed that the wounding of Srecko Sofronijevic, whom Rakic wished a speedy recovery, as well as Rumenka, the only Serb woman living in Pec/Peja, were the reason why SL decided to go to the polls and preserve 10 Serb-majority municipalities.
He also said that this decision was made in agreement with the Serbian president on the account of how the international community is „turning a blind eye“ and „looking the other way“ when it comes to Pristina failing to fulfill its obligation for eight years now.
The conversation with Vucic was difficult, he revealed. „And everyone knows how tough of an interlocutor he is,“ Rakic said, noting:
„How tough of a man he is in the sense of how tough it is to reach a compromise and agreement with him. He is a man who has his own views, and principles and who sticks to them.“
To KoSSev’s questions as to why they did not hold the conference and invited citizens to vote for them before the electoral silence, instead of holding it during the electoral silence, and how can they guarantee that after the elections, i.e. with their continued involvement in Kosovo’s institutions, the „armed conflict“, violence and new injuries – like what happened to Srecko Sofronjevic – will not be repeated, all participants in the conference remained silent before leaving the press conference hall.
I thought you had a more serious question. You get what you deserve – reads the response of Goran Rakic to the KoSSev portal editor in chief’s inquiry as to why and when SL will stop selectively informing the public and discriminating against the journalists of our portal. The KoSSev portal did not receive an invitation to yesterday’s conference.
Every time Srpska Lista “withdrew” from Kosovo institutions
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.
„SL will leave the government and it will not have the support of SL. We know that they will unite, but we will also unite. They will not scare us. We will stay there with our families. We will defend our homes with our families,“ the mayor of North Mitrovica at the time, Goran Rakic, announced from Belgrade on March 27th, 2018.
„We can no longer remain silent, we will no longer be just a decoration,“ he said after the then head of the Kosovo Office, Marko Djuric, was arrested and taken to a police station in Pristina.
Rakic announced the formation of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities: „On the fifth anniversary, on April 20th (2018), we will form the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities. Let us not go against each other, against our children. Don’t join that army.“
Four years later, the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities has yet to be established. The previous announcements that this party would withdraw from Kosovan institutions had not been fulfilled either.
„Approximately 150 Kosovo Serb representatives met with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic on February 27th, 2019. On the occasion, they asked Vucic to withdraw from Kosovo institutions, the Serbian President announced at the time.
While „amazed“ by their „unity as they live on salaries from the Kosovan system,“ Vucic asked them to wait for 45 days.
The Serbian President was surprised by the determination of Kosovo Serb representatives, as „not a single person out of the 150 that came today was in favor of staying and surviving in Kosovo’s institutions,“ he said.
The decision to leave the institutions was also the third out of seven conclusions reached on May 24th, 2019, also following a meeting with Vucic, after the May 19th elections for mayors in the north. At the time, the then head of the North Mitrovica Hospital Center, Milan Ivanovic, said that people who previously voted for Oliver Ivanovic – voted for Goran Rakic now. According to Ivanovic, this was proof that the Serbs „did not assassinate“ Oliver Ivanovic.
„Serbs, Serb representatives, mayors, leaders in all positions“ are obliged „to show every day that they are ready to leave their posts and leave their functions if necessary.“
„As we have concluded, the elected mayors in the north will perform their duties in full capacity only if and until the point until new political, security, and economic pressures follow, which would make their activities from those posts meaningless. In that case, they will, of course, leave their posts,“ the then head of the Kosovo Office, Marko Djuric, explained.
„We are ready to leave those institutions again if necessary, i.e. if there is no understanding from both Pristina and the international community, and not just us mayors, but everyone will leave the institutions, at all levels, from the very top to every official working in the municipality. Not only in the municipality, by all levels, I mean that we will leave the institutions in education and health, although they do not exist there, what is important is the prosecution, the court, the police, therefore, literally at all levels,“ said Goran Rakic.
At the end of the same year, these officials once again declared that they will withdraw from Kosovo institutions, again at the local, central, and other levels, if the prison sentence issued against a member of the presidency of Srpska Lista, Ivan Todosijevic, over his statement on Racak was confirmed.
They stressed that they would remain in the institutions if Todosijevic’s verdict is revoked.
„If the verdict remains in force and is confirmed at a higher instance, we will call on all Serb representatives to leave their posts in the judiciary, police, prosecutor’s office, and local self-governments,“ Goran Rakic said once again at an extraordinary press conference.
He also confirmed that he „will not allow“ for this case to be „brought to an ad acta.“
The two-years-long prison sentence issued against a member of the Kosovo Assembly, Ivan Todosijevic, was confirmed on August 24th of this year, however, Srpska Lista did not withdraw from the institutions.
On the contrary, the party also participated in today’s elections.
After all these promises and announcements, the party issued another, albeit more cautious, statement on October 13th, 2020, that „the possibility of leaving“ Kosovo institutions will be placed under review.
„If Pristina unilaterally decides not to fulfill the obligations signed before the EU, the obligations of Serbs arising from the Brussels dialogue will cease, and the possibility of leaving all central institutions in Pristina and abolishing all Pristina institutions in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo will be considered,“ reads the conclusion of a joint meeting between Srpska Lista officials and the current head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petkovic.
While the withdrawal from Kosovo institutions at all levels never came to be, many SL representatives have repeatedly frozen their participation in Kosovo institutions, some of the reasons being: the dismissal of the then Minister Aleksandar Jablanovic, the adoption of the Law on Trepca, the arrest of Marko Djuric, the introduction of tariffs and the adoption of the Statute of Trepca. They stayed on the payroll.
The electoral silence just ended and the local Kosovo elections have come to an end. The northern municipalities recorded a record turnout, despite a very poor visible campaign, and above all, the two political and security crises that occurred during the pre-election campaign.
The thirteen-day long blockade of highways near Jarinje and Brnjak by a group of local Serbs and the presence of special units of the Kosovo Police over the Kosovo government’s decision to introduce license plate reciprocity, i.e. temporary license plate for vehicles with Serbian license plates, ended with an agreement in Brussels, i.e. the introduction of the sticker regime.
The second crisis broke out this week when the Kosovo Police carried out an anti-smuggling operation at 26 locations throughout Kosovo. Nine of these locations were in North Mitrovica and Zvecan, but the police managed to carry out the operation at just one location. After local Serbs objected to a search of a pharmacy in North Mitrovica, owned by an Albanian, who was also on the list of suspected smugglers, special police units arrived. The protesters and the special police units clashed. A local ethnic Serb, Srecko Sofronijevic, was shot during the clashes in Zvecan.
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