Legal framework for Kosovo Serbs tailored to Pristina (part three): What kind of future awaits them?

Dragutin Nenezić
Dragutin Nenezic is a lawyer from Belgrade who has been working in Kosovo for more than a decade. Nenezic advised and represented parties in privatization and property disputes before the Pristina courts. Over time, he became an expert on property issues in Kosovo, and in that capacity, he participated in various forums and initiatives. He currently works as a consultant in the field of infrastructure, energy, and ecology, as well as public policy.

By Dragutin Nenezic

It seems as if the Serbian public mostly deals with topics that are currently prominently featured in the context of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina (such as the ASM and energy), or the ones expected to be resolved within those negotiations (such as the property and status of the Serbian Orthodox Church). On the other hand, other topics that may directly affect the life of Kosovo Serbs in the future are completely disregarded, regardless of how abstract and far-away they may seem at the moment. This is also the case with what could be referred to as, to use modern terminology, Pristina’s public policies, which will be briefly analyzed in this text.

  1. Development strategy by 2030

Under the auspices of the German Development Agency, a document entitled „National Development Strategy 2030“ (hereinafter: the Strategy) is currently being drafted in Pristina. The starting points for the Strategy were published in September 2020, during the Hoti-led government – however, it cannot be ruled out that this document was made during the first Kurti government.

The Pristina government decision from October 2020 put in charge the interim commission for strategic planning within the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the preparatory team made up of representatives of Pristina institutions, whose work is coordinated by the Strategic Planning Office as a permanent body in the Prime Minister’s Office, for the drafting of the Strategy.

According to the news revealed at the promotional event held at the end of October 2021, it seems that this institutional structure remained unchanged, and it was confirmed that the second Kurti government continued to work on the Strategy.

The Strategy is attempting to establish a hierarchy of policy documents, within which the Strategy itself would be at the very top, trailed by a series of lower-ranking documents, and ending with the government’s action plan. Also, the Strategy defines four key development priorities – the rule of law and good governance, sustainable economic growth, human capital, and equal society, as well as a clean environment and sustainable resources.

These priorities are illustrated in greater detail by sectors – from public administration and public finances to social security, health, education, and science. If the Strategy were to be implemented (which is often not the case with such documents), it should guide Pristina’s policy in the areas it covers in the next ten years, thus influencing the content of future regulations.

When it comes to Kosovo Serbs, the Strategy does not explicitly recognize them, considering that it has been thoroughly cleansed of any determinants based on ethnicity. If we keep to the topics of the property and position of the SOC, as well as the status of Kosovo Serbs in general, interpreting the general categories and even more general places on page 7, it seems that the Strategy envisages only the following for Serbs:

  • To provide them with equal access to the services of central and local institutions, as well as equal access to justice;
  • For them to be a “safe minority”; and
  • Part of „cultural diversity and cultural heritage“.

From the procedural point of view, it seems that the Strategy is being practically drafted without the involvement of Serbs. The decision forming the preparatory team does not name the members by name and surname, but only lists the institutions that will delegate their representatives. One of them is the ministry in charge of return (traditionally headed by a Serb), whose representatives should address priorities related to human capital and sustainable economic growth.

A representative of the Council for Cultural Heritage should also deal with human capital, who should obviously act on behalf of religious communities, including the Serbian Orthodox Church. Municipalities, as the third relevant Serbian factor on the Pristina political scene, also do not participate directly, but through the Association of Municipalities. Finally, it is impossible to find any trace of consultations with Serbs in any form on the Internet.

  1. Pristina government program by 2025

On the opposite side of the hierarchy of public policy documents, in May 2021, Kurti’s second government adopted its program by 2025. (hereinafter: the Program), which is much more explicit as far as Serbs are concerned.

The program defines the two key priorities of this government – managing the pandemic and economic recovery – and then elaborates objectives in 18 thematic areas. The program distinguishes between Serbs in KiM and the Republic of Serbia, by viewing Serbs in KiM within each thematic area as a passive subject, while a special thematic area is dedicated to the Republic of Serbia.

For Serbs in KiM, the Program (does not) envisage the following (once again observed in the context of the topics of SOC property and position, as well as the status of Serbs in KiM in general), which went unnoticed by the public:

  • Shutting down the Pristina Privatization Agency and transforming it into a government-controlled agency (section 1.2);
  • Monoethnic return of displaced persons (Albanians to Kosovska Mitrovica), in section 2.6; and
  • Regulation and promotion of cultural heritage without ethnic determinants (section 2.16.2).

The shutting down of the privatization agency is especially important given the large number of privatization disputes involving Serbs in KiM, which are currently being conducted against the decisions of this, formally independent, agency before a special chamber of the Pristina Supreme Court. The transformation into an agency under the control of the Pristina government actually means that all disputed assets will be nationalized, as has already been done with Trepca.

What is even more interesting is what the Program envisages for the Republic of Serbia, and what has been noticed by the public in part due to Kurti’s statements:

  • A genocide lawsuit before the International Court of Justice, as well as a request for reparations (section 2.2.3); and
  • Mutual recognition and “final normalization” (section 2.17.9).

According to media reports, the Serb representative in the Pristina government abstained during the adoption of the Program.

  1. Conclusion

These two strategic documents must be viewed jointly in order to fully reveal the nature and intentions of the current Pristina government, including, more broadly, the Pristina legal and political system in general.

On the one hand, with the technical support of Western factors, well-drafted documents are adopted – this is the case with both public policy documents and individual regulations. In terms of values, these documents are always in the position of liberalism – secularized and non-national. However, when the Pristina authorities act without this technical support, they issue openly discriminatory documents – and this is also the case with both policy documents and regulations. Then the value shifts from liberalism to something that is dangerously close to the opposite end of the political spectrum.

Viewed together, from the outside, Pristina can, in the manner of its current leader – pseudo-intellectual, present itself as a very modern, almost postmodern liberal democracy, while from the inside – more precisely towards Serbs in KiM – it is at times openly anti-Serbian. In such a situation, all the moves of Pristina that seem contradictory, illogical and the like can be unmistakably interpreted.

It is natural to pose questions to Serbs in KiM, as well as Belgrade, related to this bizarre phenomenon. For Serbs in KiM, the question is whether they want to live in a system that is thoroughly committed to denying them in every possible way, one that imposes sanctions and assimilation instead of respecting their rights, confiscates their property, and imposes the burden of genocidal people with reparations.

For Belgrade, the question is not only whether it is aware of what the negotiations with Pristina are leading to, but also how it approaches the issue of KiM independently from the relations with Pristina. For example, let us stay at the level of public policy documents, the Republic of Serbia has not yet adopted its development plan in accordance with the Law on the Planning System („Official Gazette of RS“, No. 30/2018), so it remains to be seen how it will treat KiM, especially having in mind the position of the EU that in the process of accession, Serbia must pay attention so that the territorial validity of its legislation is not in contradiction with the procedure of the so-called comprehensive normalization (point 38 of the General position of the EU on accession negotiations with the Republic of Serbia from 2014).

If the development plan of the Republic of Serbia does not include KiM, Serbs in KiM will be the only example in the world in that none of the jurisdictions that formally aspire for them to be their citizens actually wants them. If KiM, however, finds its place in the development plan of the Republic of Serbia, the implementation of that plan, as well as its harmonization with what was agreed in Brussels, will pose a real challenge, and the way Belgrade responds to that challenge will be a measure of its genuine interest in Serbs in KiM.

Read more: 

Legal framework for Kosovo Serbs tailored to Pristina

Legal framework for Kosovo Serbs tailored to Pristina (part two): Energy

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