North and South

In course of one out of many extraordinary situations in northern Kosovo, while discussing with a colleague of mine from Caglavica about the events I had taken part as a reporter immediately before that, she incidentally told me that since March 2004 she was keeping under her bed a travel bag packed with basic items, documents, photos, some money and jewelry, that she could take out immediately in case of an emergency. In case they start again with attacks and lootings. In case things get hot in the north.

This travel bag, similarly to apartment keys in Pristina and other Kosovo cities that those displaced from these cities still hold on to, has carved in my mind as one of important symbols of position and living of Serbs in Kosovo after the conflict. As a symbol of close relation between events in northern Kosovo with the situation of Serbs further south.

Even the latest incidents in northern Kosovo in last three months seem as if have resonated on the other side of the bridge. Latest tensions, hand grenades, smashing of ballot boxes, resignation and interrogation of Krstimir Pantic, killing of Dimitrije Janicijevic, arresting of Oliver Ivanovic and Dragoljub Delibasic, and so on, regardless of time inconsistency, had their counterbalance in stoning buses carrying Serbs in Djakovica, intimidations against priests in Pristina for bringing the Christmas tree into the parish house, looting of the church in Babin Most, demolition of memorial dedicated to poet Lazar Vuckovic in Gornje Selo near Prizren – let’s stay with the events since New Year’s. This counterbalance was, to be honest, less ‘attractive’ from media point of view, due to frequency of such incidents in the south.

Even the Christmas visit of Kosovo PM Taci and Minister Petrovic to two Serb returnee families in Klina municipality did not help in preventing a line of incidents in that same municipality. In Klinavac village, a house of Lazar Vucicevic was set on fire, the one owned by Predrag Stasic looted, while windows and doors on a house owned by Dusan Mikic were smashed.

"My government and I have made a commitment to fulfill Serbs needs to return to their properties. In course of this visit, I wish to invite all displaced, wherever they are, to come back to their homes and properties. Kosovo is ours, we want to build a European Kosovo, as a homeland of its all citizens”, said Thaci at a dinner with that unfortunate host, who wholeheartedly thanked him on behalf of all returnees in Klina.

Nice words, said and heard a thousand times. Does that mean that Kosovo’s PM is not telling the truth, or that he cannot control the situation in the territory? That he does not essentially attempt to change the situation, or that he might not be able to? That, anyway, is not that much important when the consequence is the same, regardless of the cause.

In a press release issued due to the events in the north, Kosovo Policy and Action Network (KPAN), which is an umbrella organization for mainly Serb NGOs, emphasized that the said events have “caused panic, fear and concern within the entire Serb community, as in northern part, as well as in the rest of Kosovo’s territory” and addresses possible background: “Serb community cannot remember in last ten years after the March [2004] pogrom of suffering this many unwanted events in such a short period of time. One comes to an objective impression that all these activities have been preceded by carefully designed actions and we are concerned that this is not the end of it.”

The terms ‘north’ and ‘south of Ibar’ have been present in media, analyses and politics for over a decade. They are there to remind as to how different are the situation and position of Serbs depending on which bank of the river destiny placed them. This diversity, at the end of the day, is not artificial, but a product of a reality on the ground. The fact that Serbs in the north, unlike those in the south, are physically connected with Serbia. That Republic of Serbia institutions in the north, until recently, functioned practically as the only ones existing, and that the Pristina’s authority actually did not exist there. That all these years Serbs from the north have had a chance to see the position of their compatriots “down-south of Ibar River” and that enabled them to draw conclusions that already began to get confirmation. Now, this diversity, that has been created for over 15 years, someone attempts to brutally cancel overnight, because they are probably in a hurry.

That, definitely, does not promise a happy solution. And the latest events certainly do not contribute possibilities for finding further compromises. The right way in considering the issue would have to take into account, when it comes to Kosovo Serbs, both factors: the north diversity and its correlation with situation of Serbs in other parts of Kosovo. Maybe through a higher level autonomy for that part of Kosovo, which might please Belgrade with a fact they have gained something additional, partially Serbs in the north too, that they have fought for something additional. Pristina for sure has a pricelist prepared for that as well, it just seems to be too expensive for the time being.

Predrag Radonjić

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