Quint, EU, and OSCE urge Pristina to uphold Ahtisaari principles and rule of law on expropriation in Serb-majority areas; Kosovo Government regrets the response

KoSSev je imao uvid u navodni nacrt dve katastarske parcele koje treba da se eksproprišu u opštini Leposavić

“It is essential that the government make efforts to ensure that expropriation activities comply with the law, that due process is followed, and that the property rights of concerned owners and interest holders are fully respected,” reads the joint reaction of Quint, the EU and OSCE a week after the final decision of the Kosovo government on the expropriation of land in the north. In the meantime, the Kosovo government reacted, alleging that they “inaccurately presented the factual situation and a legal assessment that was not substantiated.”

On May 31, the Kosovo government adopted the final decision on the expropriation of property owned by interested parties affected by the implementation of „Infrastructural projects of public interest“ in the municipalities of Leposavić and Zubin Potok.

They stated then that this decision was adopted „in accordance with the final judgments of the courts of the Republic of Kosovo“.

According to the text of the final decision, they approved the expropriation of real estate in the cadastral areas Bistrica, Šaljska Bistrica, Dren, Lešak, Košutovo – Leposavić municipality; as well as the areas: Brnjak, Zubin Potok, Velji Breg, Banje, Gornji Jasenovik – Zubin Potok municipality.

The text, however, did not include details about the parcels covered by this decision on expropriation, although the text of the decision mentions alleged tables and reports with details.

On the other hand, RFE reported that eight hectares of land has now been excluded when compared to the decision from January 2023.

At the same time, on Friday, the government did not explain the outcome of the court proceedings that were conducted after the Basic Court in January, based on the claims of property owners, determined that it was illegal, after which the government announced that it would present a new proposal.

On the same day, one of the legal representatives of the injured owners of the property that was the subject of expropriation, Dragutin Nenezić, pointed this out, as did Milija Biševac from the Serbian People’s Movement in Zubin Potok.

A week later, Quint also underscored the same issue in a joint statement with the European Union and the OSCE.

In addition, they revealed that the decision includes the expropriation of over 100 plots of land in municipalities with a Serbian majority.

“The Embassies of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, together with the EU Office in Kosovo, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mission in Kosovo regret the decision taken by the Government of Kosovo on May 30 to finalize expropriation of over 100 parcels of land in Serb-majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo,” they wrote in a joint statement.

They reminded they also previously reacted when the Kosovo government, according to international legal experts’ assessments, violated its own laws in the process, which was then identified by the Kosovo judicial system as well.

“Several of our missions had previously shared with the Government assessments from international legal experts, including from the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, indicating that the Government violated its own laws and regulations due to procedural and technical flaws during the expropriation process. We note that the Kosovo judicial system identified similar legal concerns with the preliminary expropriation decision, which the Government has not yet addressed.”

Nebojša Vlajić, a lawyer who represented the injured parties before the Kosovo judiciary, confirmed yesterday that some properties were removed from the final decision of May 31st. The same news was confirmed by Quint.

They also criticized the fact the Kosovo government did not wait for all open court procedures to be fully adjudicated before taking this decision.

“While some of the claimants’ properties were removed from the final expropriation decision, we regret that the Kosovo government did not wait for all open court procedures to be fully adjudicated before taking this decision.”

“It is essential that the government make efforts to ensure that expropriation activities comply with the law, that due process is followed, and that the property rights of concerned owners and interest holders are fully respected.”

They underlined that they shared their concerns with the Kosovo government that the draft expropriation law does not conform with Kosovo’s commitments made under the Ahtisaari Plan and “have encouraged the government to modify the law accordingly before passing it.”

Moreover, they once again encouraged the Kosovo government to adhere to the rule of law and good governance:

“Which are the foundations of vibrant, democratic societies. Furthermore, we call on the Government to reaffirm its commitment to the Ahtisaari principles, including the protection and promotion of non-majority community rights.”

Kosovo government: Regret over statement by Quint, the EU and OSCE, law was respected

The Kosovo government has expressed regret over the „incorrect factual representation“ and „unsubstantiated legal assessment“ in the statement by Quint, the EU, and OSCE concerning the expropriation of property in Serb-majority municipalities.

„The Government of the Republic of Kosovo regrets the statement of the Quint countries, the EU and OSCE regarding the decision of May 30 on the expropriation of real estate in certain municipalities in the north of the Republic of Kosovo. The statement in question inaccurately presents the factual situation and a legal assessment that is not substantiated,“ they said.

They assert that the expropriation process, initiated by Kosovo’s Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure, follows the current Law on Expropriation and aims to build infrastructure projects.

Moreover, the government claims this purpose aligns with the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

Responding to the allegations of Quint, the EU and the OSCE, they said that the Kosovo legislation allows decisions to be made „despite the proceedings initiated before the courts“.

On the other hand, they even claim that the Kosovo government „nevertheless waited for the decisions of the courts before proceeding to the final decision“.

„The only dispute related to the expropriation procedure according to Strasbourg jurisprudence is the amount of compensation,“ they added.

In the context of property expropriation, the Kosovo government publicly mentioned the construction of police stations for the first time in this last night’s statement.

„Building infrastructure projects, including police stations, will help prevent violence, fight against organized crime and corruption. It is about legal and more legitimate goals that contribute to the strengthening of law enforcement and, above all, the safety of citizens who have long been exposed to the violence and terror of criminal groups led by terrorist boss Milan Radoičić, sanctioned by the Treasury of the United States and the United Kingdom.“

Expropriation with strict adherence to the law, Ahtisaari’s plan and SOC property as a CoE obligation

The issue of expropriation was raised as one of the post-accession conditions for Kosovo’s membership in the CoE. In the report of the special rapporteur of this body, which was adopted in April in the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE, Kosovo was called to carry out the expropriation with the strictest respect for the law and in full agreement with Ahtisaari’s plan.

„It is of utmost importance that the Kosovo authorities ensure scrupulous compliance with Ahtisaari’s plan regarding the protection of the rights of non-majority communities, including expropriation,“ the report states.

Pristina has undertaken to ensure that it is carried out with the strictest respect for the law and that all future laws in this area are fully in line with Ahtisaari’s plan, including for the protection of the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and accordingly, it is requested that amend the Draft Law on Expropriation of Immovable Property, which was submitted to the Assembly of Kosovo – as soon as possible.

„No act can ensure the effective protection of minority communities from illegal expropriation of property. That’s why we obliged Kosovo to ensure that the expropriation is carried out in compliance with the law and that any future legislation in this field is in accordance with the Constitution, also in accordance with the protection of the property of the SOC,“ Bakoyannis said before the vote on April 16 in the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE.

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