From preparations for March 18th and Ohrid to preparations for the April elections in the north

The agreement on the path to normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, the upcoming Vucic-Kurti meeting on March 18th in Ohrid on the implementation annex, activities, visits, and messages of support from international officials ahead of that meeting, as well as criticism from the opposition from both sides – are just some of the topics that have dominated the news over the past week.

Miroslav Lajcak, special envoy for dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, confirmed in an interview for KoSSev on Friday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti agreed on February 27th with the 11 articles of the Basic Agreement of the EU proposal.

We interviewed Lajcak in Pristina, where he was on a visit to get input from Kurti on the implementation of the agreement. This Monday, he moved on to Belgrade for the same reason. Lajcak revealed that he was pleased with his stay in Pristina, noting that as far as the authorities are concerned, his expectations have been fulfilled. He also revealed that he has a total of 15 models for the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities on his desk, which can serve as an example for Pristina.

On the other hand, the majority of the opposition in Pristina shared their concerns with the EU special envoy. They once again reiterated that they are troubled by the fact that none of the 11 articles of the EU proposal contains a word about „recognition“, while at the same time requiring the formation of the ASM

During a speech in front of the Kosovo government building, the leader of the PSD, Dardan Moliqaj, expressed his stance on the matter. He did so by displaying lists with names of people who signed a petition against ASM back in 2016 in front of that institution.

The reaction of the opposition in Serbia also started arriving ahead of the meeting in Ohrid. They demand extraordinary sessions of the Serbian Parliament before Vucic’s departure, and two protests have been announced for March 17th in Belgrade – near the Church of St. Mark and the St. Sava Cathedral, where citizens will gather to object to the signing of the EU agreement, as doing so would mean „betraying Kosovo and Metohija“.

A protest under the slogan „Against the betrayal Kosovo and Metohija“, called „We will not give up on Kosovo and Metohija, we will not give up our holy sites“ was already held in Belgrade on March 7th and organized by students. Their main message read: „We request the immediate suspension of all negotiations and discussions within the framework of the Franco-German plan.“

„There will be no capitulation, surrender, and recognition. Nothing groundbreaking will happen, but we must approach the attempt to reconcile with the Albanians seriously and rationally, and do our best,“ the Serbian president said on Happy TV, accusing the opposition of acting “not in favor of Kosovo, but against Vucic.“

Vucic made a guest appearance on Happy TV the day before a meeting of the Serbian Progressive Party, where he asked for support in forming a People’s Movement for the State in response to the „severe pressures on Serbia that will follow, especially regarding Kosovo.“ Furthermore, he announced a tour of Serbia, which he started this weekend. He expressed hope that as part of his campaign, he would visit Kosovo by the end of the year.

While talks are conducted at a high political level about the normalization of relations between the two parties based on the new agreement, with the obligation to implement the one previously signed in Brussels – the collapse of part of the latter is still visible on the ground, with the withdrawal of the Serbs from Kosovan institutions, i.e. their non-participation in executive power.

The elections in four northern municipalities are scheduled for April 23rd. The Central Election Commission started its preparations last week, and the timeframe for political entities to apply has started.

On the same day, Srpska Lista announced that they will not participate in the upcoming elections because their conditions – which they presented after leaving the Kosovo institutions in November – have yet to be met.

The discussion on the expropriation of land in the Leposavic municipality continued, as the Ombudsperson of Kosovo, Naim Qelaj, met with the legal representative of the owners of the expropriated land, Nebojsa Vlajic, who conveyed the owners’ concerns.

On the same day, in the Leposavic municipality building, Qelaj also met with a resident of the village of Josanica, that is, the father of one of the two young men who, as one of them confirmed, was physically attacked by the members of the Kosovo special police last week. Although the attack was not reported to the police, according to media reports, the case caught the attention of the Kosovo Police Inspectorate, which interviewed them and launched an investigation.

Last week, the Kosovo judicial authorities decided to release Miljan Adzic, who was arrested in December, on 20,000 euros bail, on his own recognizance, and to extend the house arrest of Dejan Pantic, a former member of the Kosovo Police, by another two months.

In addition, another ethnic Serb (Z.A.), a member of the Kosovo border police, was arrested and charged with alleged war crimes from 1999. He was remanded to custody for a month-long period.

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