We will leave Kosovo institutions – reads the often repeated, but never fulfilled, promise of the largest Kosovo Serb party Srpska Lista.
Like many times in previous years, the party made similar promises this summer, once again providing specific deadlines.
The latest announcement about the withdrawal from the institutions arrived after tensions heightened and barricades were set up in the north of Kosovo in July, but also after increasingly frequent announcements, both from Belgrade and Pristina, about a possible new escalation ahead of September 1st, when Pristina announced the start of the implementation of the decision on re-registration and issuance of declaration sheets, which Belgrade opposes.
In late August, the President of Serbia held a meeting with Srpska Lista officials, just a few days after the unsuccessful round of dialogue in Brussels regarding the plates and the issuance of entry/exit documents.
Vucic then once again announced the possibility of SL leaving the Kosovo institutions.
He revealed that the representatives of the Kosovo Serbs told him that, „if the persecution of the Serbs does not cease, in the next month, politicians will leave all Kosovo institutions, and then by the end of September, the police officers, prosecutors and judges.“
„Everyone will leave, there will be a complete dismantling of the Brussels order and everything else. Since no one wants to form the ASM, the Serbs will no longer be anyone’s hostages and will take measures to save themselves, their people and their Serbia,“ Vucic said at the time, indicating that they would have Serbia’s full support for this.
Just a day after meeting with the President of Serbia, SL representatives held a press conference to which only „select media outlets“ were invited, where they also talked about leaving the institutions.
SL chief and minister in the Kosovo government, Goran Rakic, said that they told the president that Srpska Lista „continued to institutionally fight for the rights of Serbs many times at his insistence.“
„But this time, if a compromise solution is not reached, we will start withdrawing from the institutions, and in this way, the Brussels dialogue will be completely dismantled, which Pristina has rendered meaningless by refusing to form the ASM for 10 years.“
Councilors of the four municipalities in the North of Kosovo – 62 of them, in the company of four mayors, adopted a declaration in Zvecan only two days later. Among other things, they agreed to give support to President Vucic in his quest for a solution to the issue of plates and exit/entry documents. At the same time, they called for the „most urgent“ establishment of the ASM, but also advocated for “peace and dialogue, compromise and long-term solutions.”
The sixth and last conclusion of this document addressed the withdrawal from institutions, which was set to take place if no compromise is reached with the Government in Pristina. Deadlines for doing so were not specified this time.
„6. In the event that a compromise solution is not reached, we Serb political representatives, together with all our compatriots, will begin the process of abandoning all Kosovo institutions at all levels, starting from central and local institutions, up to the judiciary, prosecutor’s office, police and all other institutions, which will completely dismantle The Brussels Process“.
Just a few days after the adoption of this declaration, the European Union confirmed that Belgrade and Pristina concluded an oral agreement on entry-exit documents, that is, that Serbia agreed to stop issuing them to citizens with Kosovo documents, while Pristina decided not to introduce such documents for citizens with Serbian documents.
On the other hand, the issue of license plates still remains unresolved.
The Kosovo government stands by its decision from June, which mandates that owners of vehicles with plates with Serbian markings of towns in Kosovo must re-register them to RKS by the end of October.
KoSSev portal was once again unable to obtain answers to questions about another announcement on withdrawals from institutions.
We asked SL why they have not left the institutions, bearing in mind the deadlines presented by the President of Serbia, that is, considering that no compromise solution has been found for the license plate issue.
By the time this news was published, no answers had arrived.
SL continues to speak about the persecution of K.Serbs
However, Srpska Lista and its officials continue to speak about the persecution and discrimination of Kosovo Serbs.
In their latest statement, they pointed out that there is „planned and institutional violence carried out with the aim of permanent discrimination of the Serbian people by the Kosovo institutions, all in the hope that the Serbs will give up and leave their hearths“.
Moreover, they alleged that at the meetings with international representatives, they call on them to put a stop to „institutional violence“:
„Carried out by Pristina by raising false charges and threatening armed formations, as well as the need to respect the rights of our people and the rule of law in general.”
They provided examples of how „armed special forces units are sent against the bare-handed people“, and raised the question of the return of the usurped land to Visoki Decani and when will Orthodox priests be allowed to serve the liturgy in the Pristina church.
They also highlighted the hypocrisy of certain Kosovo leaders, except for Albin Kurti, when it comes to the persecution of Serbs:
„It is hypocritical that Mimoza Kusari Lila speaks about the rights of Serbs, believing that we have forgotten that when she was the mayor of Djakovica, she ordered the demolition of Serbian houses and forbade Serbs to visit their churches, their houses, and even cemeteries where Serbian tombstones were demolished.“
In the previous statement, they stated once again that Pristina is militarizing the north, and planning to occupy it.
This is not the first time that Srpska Lista threatened to withdraw from Kosovo institutions. Despite numerous announcements, the largest Kosovo Serb party had never actually done so.
„SL will leave the government and it will not have the support of SL. We know that they will unite, but we will also unite. They will not scare us. We will stay there with our families. We will defend our homes with our families,“ the mayor of North Mitrovica at the time, Goran Rakic, announced from Belgrade on March 27th, 2018.
„We can no longer remain silent, we will no longer be just a decoration,“ he said after the then head of the Kosovo Office, Marko Djuric, was arrested and taken to a police station in Pristina.
“Approximately 150” Kosovo Serb representatives met with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic on February 27th, 2019. On the occasion, they asked Vucic to withdraw from Kosovo institutions, the Serbian President announced at the time.
While „amazed“ by their „unity as they live on salaries from the Kosovan system,“ Vucic asked them to wait for 45 days before withdrawing – which they failed to do.
The decision to leave the institutions was also the third out of seven conclusions reached on May 24th, 2019, also following a meeting with Vucic, after the May 19th elections for mayors in the north.
„Serbs, Serb representatives, mayors, leaders in all positions“ are obliged „to show every day that they are ready to leave their posts and leave their functions if necessary.“
„We are ready to leave those institutions again if necessary, i.e. if there is no understanding from both Pristina and the international community, and not just us mayors, but everyone will leave the institutions, at all levels, from the very top to every official working in the municipality,“ said Goran Rakic.
At the end of the same year, SL once again announced its departure from Kosovo’s institutions, again at the local, central and other levels, if the sentence issued to Ivan Todosijevic, a member of the Presidency of SL, on December 5th, 2019, is upheld. Todosijevic was sentenced to two years in prison for his statement regarding Racak.
„If the verdict remains in force and is confirmed at a higher instance, we will call on all Serbian representatives to leave their jobs in the judiciary, police, prosecutor’s office and local self-governments,“ Goran Rakic said at an extraordinary press conference.
On August 24th of last year, Todosijevic’s sentence was confirmed, but SL did not leave the institutions, furthermore, they even participated in last year’s October elections.
In January of this year, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict against Todosijevic and the trial was returned to the beginning.
After all these promises and announcements, the party issued another, albeit more cautious, statement on October 13th, 2020, that „the possibility of leaving“ Kosovo institutions will be placed under review.
„If Pristina unilaterally decides not to fulfill the obligations signed before the EU, the obligations of Serbs arising from the Brussels dialogue will cease, and the possibility of leaving all central institutions in Pristina and abolishing all Pristina institutions in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo will be considered,“ reads the conclusion of a joint meeting between Srpska Lista officials and the current head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petkovic.
Similar announcements were made in 2021 – on several occasions.
„If talks on the formation of the ASM between Belgrade and Pristina do not start in November, Srpska Lista will leave all Pristina institutions at all levels in the North“ – Goran Rakic declared ahead of the local elections in Kosovo in October 2021.
November passed with no talks between the delegations about the ASM in Brussels, but the leaders of SL in the North decided to keep their posts.
On the eve of the same elections, Rakic presented another deadline for leaving the institutions, i.e. he explained that the talks must „start“ in November in order for them to remain in the institutions, and set the deadline for the formation of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities for the end of 2021.
The ASM has not yet been formed, and no talks were held in Brussels in 2021 about its formation, however, the leaders of SL did not leave the institutions.
Apart from announcements about leaving institutions, there were also „self-suspensions“. In March of this year, a protest was held in North Mitrovica because Serbs from Kosovo were not allowed to vote in Serbia’s April elections in the territory of Kosovo.
At this protest, the SL chief made a request to lift the suspension of the President of the Basic Court in Mitrovica, Ljiljana Stevanovic. In support of Stevanovic, as confirmed by Rakic, all Serbian judges, as well as political representatives of the Serbs, „self-suspended“.
Only three days earlier, the President of Serbia announced that SL requested to withdraw from all Kosovo institutions, including 435 policemen in the North.
While the withdrawal from Kosovo institutions at all levels never came to be, many SL representatives have repeatedly frozen their participation in Kosovo institutions, some of the reasons being: the dismissal of the then Minister Aleksandar Jablanovic, the adoption of the Law on Trepca, the arrest of Marko Djuric, the introduction of tariffs and the adoption of the Statute of Trepca. They stayed on the payroll.
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