People pass under Serbian and Russian flags put because of pre-elections of Serbian parties for snap Kosovo parliament elections in the northern part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, 10 June 2017. EPA/Djordje Savic

Western Powers Condemn Kosovo Land Expropriation in Serb-Populated North

Kosovo’s government broke its own laws in expropriating more than 100 parcels of land in Serb-populated areas of the north, according to five Western powers, the EU and OSCE.

Five Western powers, the European Union and OSCE condemned on Thursday a decision by Kosovo’s government to move ahead with the expropriation of more than 100 parcels of land in Serb-populated areas of the country’s north, saying the step violated Kosovo’s “own laws and regulations”.

The government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti took a final decision on May 30 on expropriating the properties in Leposavic and Zubin Potok, two predominantly Serb-populated municipalities in northern Kosovo, saying it had the blessing of the Kosovo courts.

The government has earmarked the land for infrastructure projects “of public interest”, but the expropriations have triggered protests from local Serbs, many of whom challenged the move in Kosovo’s courts.

Speaking to Radio Free Europe, government spokesman Perparim Kryeziu said that Pristina Basic Court had ruled “that the majority of plaintiffs had no legitimacy to initiate legal proceedings because they could not prove their ownership of the land which is subject to expropriation. The government has acted based on the court’s decisions and the legislation in force”.

But in a joint press release on Thursday, the embassies of France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States, plus the Kosovo offices of the EU and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said Kosovo had failed to wait for all challenges to be adjudicated.

“While some of the claimants’ properties were removed from the final expropriation decision, we regret that the Kosovo government did not wait for all open court procedures to be fully adjudicated before taking this decision,” they said.

“We encourage the Kosovo government to adhere to the rule of law and good governance, which are the foundations of vibrant, democratic societies.”

The signatories said some of them had previously shared their concerns with the government that it had “violated its own laws and regulations due to procedural and technical flaws during the expropriation process”.

“We have shared our concerns with the Government that the draft expropriation law does not conform with Kosovo’s commitments made under the Ahtisaari Plan and have encouraged the government to modify the law accordingly before passing it.”

The 2007 Ahtisaari Plan, drawn up former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, was a proposal for the settlement of Kosovo’s ‘final status’ but was rejected by Serbia. Kosovo adopted it when it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

06/06/2024 - 17:31

06 June 2024 - 17:31

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