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Kosovo’s PM keen to talk minority rights

Kosovo’s PM sees no need for ethnic associations, keen to talk minority rights

Originally published by Euractiv on January 30, 2023.

Kurti told RTK2 that the proposal for normalizing relations put forward by the EU and supported by the US, France, and Germany is a good basis for a final agreement. [EPA-EFE/ERMAL META]

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said he does not see the need to create an Association of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, as per the wishes of Belgrade and international stakeholders, but stressed willingness to discuss the rights of the country’s minorities.

Kurti told RTK2 that the proposal for normalizing relations put forward by the EU and supported by the US, France, and Germany is a good basis for a final agreement.

“I am ready for talks on the rights of minorities, non-majority communities, I am ready for that. But you must understand that it is very important that those who want more rights than Ahtisaari’s plan gives them bear the burden of arguing why they need more,” he said.

The Ahtisaari Plan, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement, was proposed by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and included, amongst other things, comprehensive guidelines on the rights of communities and their members. When it was put on the table in 2007, the US called it “fair and balanced” and received support from the European Commission and formed the basis of the Kosovo Constitution.

In addition to calling for the respect of minority rights, the plan also specified that Kosovo Serbs must engage with local institutions and end their boycotts “ to be able to protect effectively their rights and interests,” which has continued today.

It noted that Kosovo should be independent but that critical areas such as Serb rights, powers, and the protection of the Serbian Orthodox Church should be maintained.

Kurti has been vocal against the establishment of the Association of Serb Municipalities, which would create a separate executive structure from those in Pristina for the benefit of the Serb minority. The Constitutional Court has ruled that this goes against the country’s Constitution.

The Constitution of Kosovo, which has given many privileges to the Serbian minority and which was drafted by Ahtisaari and Albert Rohan, in its spirit does not allow mono-ethnic association. The first sentence of that plan, of that solution drafted by Ahtisaari and Rohan, says that Kosovo should be a multi-ethnic society”, said Kurti on 12 January.

“It means mono-ethnic associations or institutions are not in the spirit of that plan or our Constitution. However, we offer better and greater guarantees and rights to all minorities or non-majority communities in Kosovo, and I am very committed to this. But without underestimating the constitutionality of our country”, Kurti added.

In his interview with RTK2, Kurti said he hopes Serbs return to institutions in the north of the country following their mass resignation in December.

“I am very sorry that they have resigned. I think the resignations are wrong. In principle, I do not exclude anyone to return, but I am not competent to decide on the criteria instead of the professional commission. I say clearly, I do not intend to fill that vacuum with Albanians. If the Serbs have resigned, the Serbs should be in those positions, and I invite everyone to apply,” Kurti underlined.

He added that he wants to engage in more dialogue with ethnic Serbs but that there is a lack of trust. In addition, he detailed 123 new projects for small enterprises and startups, 48 of which are for the Serb community.

The prime minister also said that he had not been invited to a meeting organized at the request of US Envoy to the Balkans Gabriel Escobar at the US Embassy in Pristina on 31 January to discuss the matter of the association.

“I was not invited to that meeting, but those who were invited should go to that meeting and discuss it,” he said, noting Escobar’s previous comments that the association can be created without the prime minister’s permission or agreement.

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