The language Commissioner announces a meeting with Kurti: The Constitution was violated as sign inscriptions were first written in Albanian, then in Serbian

Slaviša Mladenović
PHOTO: KoSSev

The competent authorities should replace the official signs in the north of Kosovo after interpreting the law and consulting with the Commissioner for Languages – the head of the European Union Office in Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog, said tonight. In a statement for KoSSev, the commissioner for languages underlined that the installation of the new signs violated the Kosovo Constitution, and announced a meeting with Kosovo PM.

Yesterday, the Kosovo Ministry of Infrastructure began the process of removing the existing monolingual signs in Cyrillic and Latin on the roads in the north of Kosovo and replacing them with new bilingual ones, first in Albanian, then in Serbian in the Latin script.

The Constitution was violated – the inscription should be first in Serbian, then in Albanian

The commissioner for languages, however, told KoSSev that the sign replacement should have been done in the spirit of multi-ethnicity and the ethnic composition of the population in the north:

„The name should have been written in Serbian first, then in Albanian,“ he stressed.

Mladenović adds that by writing the inscriptions in the opposite order – first in Albanian, then in Serbian, actually violated the Constitution of Kosovo.

„This move violates Article 59 of the Constitution, i.e. Point 9,“ he said.

Article 59 of the Constitution of Kosovo, paragraph 9, which addresses community members, states that they have the right, individually or within the community to:
„use local names, street names and other topographical signs that reflect and take into account the multi-ethnic and multilingual character of the given area“.

According to the Constitution, as well as the Law on the Use of Languages, Albanian and Serbian are official and equal languages, which also includes their alphabets.

This law stipulates that signs that indicate or include the names of municipalities, villages, streets and other public places will be „marked in the official language and in the languages of communities that have the status of an official language in that municipality.“

Meeting with Kurti to take place soon

Mladenović told KoSSev that „a game of persuasion“ will most likely take place soon with the Prime Minister of Kosovo.

He revealed that he requested a meeting with Kurti, and that he will base his arguments on Kosovo legislation, including Article 59 of the Kosovo Constitution.

However, the Language Commissioner said:

„In such cases, the most common argument for the lack of corrective action is that – ‘there are no more funds’. Funds are spent on the wrong version of the sign, and then when the mistake needs to be corrected, they say ‘there are no more funds because it is not foreseen as per the budget.'“

He also said that it is now a matter of whether the competent institutions will „show respect for the population in the North“ because:

„As per the percentage of the majority population, the first name on those traffic signs should be in the Serbian language and possibly in the Cyrillic alphabet,“ he stated.

Mladenović noted that the standard of the Serbian language defines the Cyrillic alphabet as the Serbian script, adding that, unfortunately, the Kosovo legislation does not specify neither the Cyrillic alphabet, nor the Latin alphabet – but only makes mention of alphabets.

„The Law on the Use of Languages does not define Latin as the Serbian script. On the contrary, the Law foresees the possibility of using alphabets. It’s a matter of interpretation, and that’s exactly our disadvantage, because we allowed the ministry to interpret that law first, so now we have to quibble with them what our alphabet is and what it isn’t.”

Earlier attempts at preventive action

Mladenović notes that the Office of the Languages Commissioner had previously analyzed the legal and constitutional provisions to more precisely define the language procedure for signs showing the names of places.

„The Law on Administrative Demarcations defines the names of all cadastral units in Kosovo, but does not define the layout of those names on road signs,“ he said.

The Language Commissioner added that seven years ago he reached out to the Kosovo Ministry of Local Self-Government Administration and made a recommendation regarding this issue, but that it was never implemented.

„We specifically requested that next to the list of names there should also be a provision that would define that the name in the language of the majority community in that specific place would have priority. However, it remained unresolved. In several mandates of ministers from the Serbian community, nothing was done on that issue,“ he said.

The signs in front of municipalities in the north should be changed as well – first in Serbian, then in Albanian

In addition to the replacing of signs of town names, with the change in the ethnic structure of the municipal leaderships in the North, at the very beginning of the mandate of the new mayors, the boards displayed in the municipalities themselves were changed – the inscriptions are now written first in the Albanian language and in a bolded font, followed by the Serbian inscription in Latin, as well as English in Latin, in regular font.

In this case as well, the name should written first in Serbian, followed by Albanian, claims Mladenović, also referring to Article 59 of the Constitution of Kosovo.

„Absolutely all municipalities in the north of Kosovo should have a sign first in Serbian, and then in Albanian,“ he said.

And while the signs are being changed in the north of Kosovo, on the buildings of certain central institutions, since the arrival of the current government, inscriptions in Cyrillic have been replaced by Latin.

„As it was not explicitly stated that Cyrillic is a Serbian alphabet, the majority take the opportunity to interpret the law as they see fit. The law is generally not sufficiently respected. On the contrary, there are frequent cases of institutions that violate the law on the use of language, than there are institutions that respect it. The efforts of our office and the Serbian community are primarily focused on compliance with the law, i.e. availability of information and services in the Serbian language, followed by the insistence on the use of Cyrillic alphabet. In a way, the Cyrillic alphabet became a victim of priority,“ Mladenović said.

Read more:

The Kosovo minister claimed that Kosovo laws are respected by removing the Cyrillic alphabet from the signs, then deleted the word „Cyrillic“ from his post

Szunyog on sign removal in the North: Implement the process after interpreting the law and consulting with the commissioner

Albanian inscriptions on some newly installed bilingual signs have been spray-painted

Aliu confirmed the removal of Serbian roads signs will continue, an avalanche of reactions on both sides – Cyrillic at the center

Bilingual signboards are being installed in the north, names appear first in Albanian, Cyrillic signs removed



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