Albin Kurti (right) and Edi Rama in Prishtina, September 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/VALDRIN XHEMAJ

Kosovo Cautious on Albania PM’s Plan for Serb Municipalities Association

Albanian PM Edi Rama has presented a proposal to France and Germany for the establishment of Kosovo’s Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities in a bid to break the deadlock between Pristina and Belgrade on the issue.

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Thursday that he has sent a proposal to France’s President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for the statute of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities in Kosovo – a move that was not well-received by the Prishtina authorities.

Rama was attempting to break the long-running deadlock over the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, which is intended to represent Serbs’ interests in Kosovo but is viewed with suspicion by the Pristina authorities.

Rama told journalists in Tirana that the document was drafted “some time ago” by American and European experts and was created “exactly in case this situation came about”.

“This is a confidential document which does not pretend to be an ideal solution but I assure you that it is of the highest international standard. It takes into consideration all the reasons for the establishment of the Association and… addresses all the recommendations and conclusions of [Kosovo’s] Constitutional Court,” Rama said.

“I wish and hope that this document will serve to take the [Pristina-Belgrade] dialogue [aimed at normalising relations] to another level and make both sides talk about concrete issues which are related to the successful conclusion of the dialogue,” he added.

His move comes amid the crisis that erupted in Kosovo’s Serb-majority northern municipalities two weeks ago and sparked criticism of the Pristina government from its Western allies.

Rama’s proposal was not wholeheartedly accepted in Kosovo, with ruling party Vetevendosje expressing caution.

“There is an old saying that ‘the path to hell is paved with good intentions’. So I don’t see this proposal beyond this context,” Mimoza Kusari Lila, head of the Vetevendosje parliamentary group, told Kosovapress news agency.

“We don’t know how to assess it because we haven’t seen this draft statute. As Prime Minister Rama has stated himself, he has not been consulting [with the Kosovo authorities],” she added.

Speaking on Thursday at a parliament session, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti did not directly refer to Rama’s proposal but mentioned that beginning of this month he had presented his vision for the Association during a high-level meeting with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels.

Kurti said that there was no agreement on who should draft the statute for the Association, but that the text could be amended “when we agree in principle”.

Serbia and Kosovo agreed during talks in Brussels in 2013 to establish a semi-autonomous municipal association for the Serb minority, an agreement that was then ratified by the Kosovo parliament. But so far it has not been set up and pressure on the Kosovo government has been growing as the country’s Western backers push for its conclusion.

The first principles of the deal were agreed in Brussels in August 2015, and stipulate that Kosovo Serbs should have full “oversight” over economic development, education, healthcare, urban and rural planning, with budgetary contributions coming directly from Serbia. In exchange, the municipalities would agree to full integration into Kosovo.

But later that year, Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled the legality of the agreement on establishing the Association but said many of the points of the agreement did not fully comply with Kosovo’s constitution and should be corrected.

Kosovo’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Meliza Haradinaj Stublla, criticised Rama’s plan on Thursday, comparing it to a previous mooted normalisation ‘solution’ involving an exchange of territories.

“So now, the ‘agents’ of the land swap idea have been set in motion [to work] for the implementation of the Association with executive powers. The aim remains the same: the partition of Kosovo,” Haradinaj Stublla wrote on Facebook.

Arben Gashi, head of opposition Democratic league of Kosovo, LDK, parliamentary group, also rebuffed Rama’s proposal.

“Let’s be clear and sharp: only the Kosovo government and no government of any other country is authorised to propose the statute of the Association,” Gashi said.

09/06/2023 - 11:27

09 June 2023 - 11:27

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