Pristina on the eve of Brussels talks: The Association is more dangerous than COVID-19

Jo zajednica ZSO Zajednica Srpskih opština
Grafit/Priština/Foto: KoSSev

The news has been updated

Perhaps the two most important topics – at least for the Serbian side – will be on the agenda of the new round of technical talks between Belgrade and Pristina. The Association of Serb-majority Municipalities (ASM) and property will be discussed at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday, held under the auspices of the EU, both sides have confirmed. Even though five years have passed since the Technical Agreement on the formation of the ASM was signed – this has not happened yet, while the very topic has been demonized in the Kosovo public.

After a series of negative reactions arrived from Pristina on the eve of tomorrow’s talks, the EU envoy, Miroslav Lajcak announced today that non-majority communities will not be discussed in Brussels.

He cited the complexity of the topics as the reason behind this, noting that mutual financial claims will be discussed tomorrow, while the issue of minority communities will be on the agenda some other day.

“President Vucic and Prime Minister Hoti agreed their negotiators will follow up on settlement of mutual financial claims and arrangements for non-majority community. Both topics are very complex. That’s why we will discuss financial claims tomorrow and arrangements for non-majority community in coming days,” Lajcak tweeted.

This however was soon denied by Marko Djuric, head of the Kosovo Office. In a reply to Lajcak via twitter, he claimed that the ASM will still be on the agenda tomorrow.

The Association is more dangerous than COVID-19, Glauk Konjufca said last night during his guest appearance on the talk-show „Interaktiv“ on Klan Kosova TV.

Konjufca, one of the leaders of the Self-Determination movement, who is known in the public as the strongest opponent of the ASM, said that its formation represents „the limit to the people of Kosovo’s patience.”

„There is more risk with this than with COVID-19,“ said Konjufca.

A new wave of political criticism against the ASM arrived after the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina continued in Brussels in mid-July, after two years of a dialogue deadlock.

The Kosovo authorities now state that the establishment of the ASM will be just „a part of a comprehensive agreement on the normalization of relations between the two countries.“

Xhavit Beqiri, an adviser to Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, confirmed in a recent interview with RFE that the Kosovo delegation will use mutual recognition as a condition for the formation of the ASM in Brussels.

Fatmir Limaj, the leader of NISMA, however, claimed that as far as Kosovo is concerned the „ASM is a closed issue.“

In last night’s show „Debate“ on RTK, while criticizing the body that was not formed even five years after the signing of the technical agreement in Brussels, Limaj said that the ASM conflicts with the Kosovo constitution and that the Constitutional Court found that 23 points of this agreement are not in line with it.

That is why the risk of forming an Association of Serb-majority Municipalities has passed, Limaj claimed.

Since the signing of the Brussels Agreement, the topic of the ASM was met with strong opposition in the Kosovo public – from the media and politicians. On the other hand, since the signing of the Technical Agreement in August 2015, Self-Determination organized mass demonstrations, while also throwing tear gas in the hall of the Kosovo Assembly on several occasions.

„The Association will not come to be“ – this movement underlined.

Kosovo officials, numerous experts, as well as a large part of Kosovo CSOs, have a united negative stance on the ASM, even though six of the 15 points of the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations between Belgrade and Pristina (Brussels Agreement) apply to the ASM, which was additionally confirmed by the signing of a technical agreement on its establishment on August 25th, 2015.

The latest in a series of negative reactions on the eve of Thursday negotiations on the ASM arrived from the Cabinet of the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci. In a press release, Thaci asked the Assembly of Kosovo to vote on a resolution that would ban Avdullah Hoti from negotiating on Kosovo’s internal issues and topics that „threaten the internal state order.“

Former Kosovo chief negotiator and potential war crimes indictee, Thaci said that opening the topic of the ASM in Brussels was „a big and dangerous mistake.“ During the celebration of the Israeli New Year in Pristina last night, he also criticized Brussels, saying that opening the ASM topic was „a step backward.“ The Kosovo President also underlined that only the United States could lead to the signing of a „comprehensive agreement between Kosovo and Serbia“.

„Other efforts are all in vain, they are a waste of time,“ Thaci added last night.

The judgment of the Constitutional Court interpreted selectively

On two occasions in 2015, the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruled against the legality of the establishment of the ASM. In the first announcement in November 2015, a decision was made to temporarily suspend the agreement, while a month later, the court decided to declare the request admissible.

Although the ASM agreement is not „fully in line with the Constitution of Kosovo,“ the Constitutional Court ruling orders that the Serb-majority Association/Community be „established as provided for in the first agreement, ratified by the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo and proclaimed by the President of the Republic of Kosovo“. The decision came into force on the same day, but the ASM has yet to be established.

Self-Determination says it will defend the Constitutional Court’s decisions – at least the decisions explaining that the points of the 2015 agreement are not in line with Kosovo’s constitution.

While the Kosovo public is regularly reminded of the decisions of the Constitutional Court on what parts of the agreement on the ASM are not in accordance with the constitution, the statement of the court that this is an international obligation is being largely ignored.

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and the former Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, now the leader of the LDK, reminded of this statement of the Constitutional Court just last week.

Defending his party comrade-in-arms and the current prime minister from the attacks by, in his words, the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and the Self-Determination Party, Mustafa shared the 2015 decision on the ASM of the Constitutional Court.

„Let’s conclude that Self-Determination agrees to establish the Association according to the Agreement signed by Mr. Thaci, as decided by the Constitutional Court,“ Mustafa added at the time.

Mustafa received a reply from Albulena Haxhiu, who, whoever, failed to address the argument on the Constitutional Court’s obligation to establish the ASM.

„We are not in favor of Mustafa’s nor Thaci’s association, because they are both ‘Associations of Serbia’,“ she said.

Haxhiu claimed, moreover, that the ruling of the Constitutional Court „practically rejects the idea of an ‘Association'“, which was first signed by Thaci in 2013, and then by Mustafa in 2015.

„Now we know that you are having trouble with the third attempt, but you have no legitimacy, no legality. You can swear to Vucic, but those vows concern only you. Kosovo’s sovereignty and unity cannot be changed. Kosovo is a Republic „- the Self-Determination stressed before the resumption of talks on the ASM on Thursday.

Publicist Veton Surroi also claims that the Constitution of Kosovo and the agreement on the ASM „do not go hand in hand.“

On his Facebook page, Surroi recently posted a screenshot of Hoti’s statement with RFE that Kosovo will respect the agreement on the ASM, while also commenting: „… or the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo. They don’t go hand in hand.“

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