"We may disgree over status, but should not hate each other"

Director of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Đurić is interviewed by B92 TV's Goran Dimitrijević

Marko Đurić (Tanjug, file)
Marko Đurić (Tanjug, file)

After the government's 100 or so days in office, what, according to you, were the successes achieved when it comes to Kosovo, and what were the failures?

- In the past six to eight weeks in Kosovo and Metohija, almost everything that could have theoretically happened, did happen. We had general elections in which for the first time all representatives of Serbs and the Serb people took part, with the encouragement and active support of the government of the Republic of Serbia, with the goal of finally taking a significant portion of the responsibility for the situation in the Province into our own hands.

Therefore, essentially since 2012 - because these 100 or so days cannot be viewed out of context of what was happening in the previous period - the approach changed essentially, and an active stance was taken, by which we fight to have as much influence as possible in the provincial institutions, and that has yielded the first results.

For the first time since 1999, it is not possible to form a provincial government in Priština without active participation and without agreement with the Serb community in Kosovo and Metohija; for the first time since 1999 as the assembly in Priština was constituted a Serb from Leposavić, Milka Vulović, presided over the assembly. I think this was a big message of encouragement to our people...

You obviously consider this to be a success. Is there anything you would say has not been done successfully - during these 100 days?

- We cannot be satisfied with the general situation in Kosovo and Metohija as long as we have unemployment rates in Serb areas that go over 60 percent, an one of our dominant tasks in the coming period will be to grapple with these economic problems of our people that have somehow always remained in the shadow of big political topics, and that are, in fact, life.

"Life" is also Kosovska Mitrovica. What will happen with what is now already customarily referred to as Peace Park? Will those flower boxes have to be removed sooner or later?

- In Brussels we - contrary to what we have had a chance to hear from Mrs. Tahiri, and which has already become an anecdotal thing that is being recounted - we actually agreed that everything should remain the way it is until further notice, and to, starting in September, continue the talks on this subject. I wish to take this opportunity to explain to our viewers the importance of that area for our people there. Namely, 100 meters to the left and to the right, there are bridges across which both pedestrians and vehicles pass normally - on this bridge...

So, the fate of the flower boxes will be the subject of negotiations, if I understood correctly?

- Yes. This bridge is important because it is important for security reasons that nobody can charge into the main Kosovska Mitrovica street with their car,, that God forbid something happens to somebody, and people in the north find it very important that nothing further is done there without agreement with them.

You were in Priština the other day, the media reported that you took a walk downtown and had lunch, and that kind of detail. What are your impressions, what are the prices in Priština?

- Well, you see, freedom is won, and for too long, for 15 years, our people were exposed to conditions where fear was the dominant characteristic of relations between Serbs and Albanians...

You were not afraid to take a walk in downtown Priština?

- Let me tell you - I - by doing that and by going to Priština - want to demonstrate that this should be something that's normal, something that should be a part of the normalization of relations, just as I think it should be normal for any Albanian to travel to any other part of Serbia, and I think that we can disagree over the status (of Kosovo) for the next 200 years, but that does not mean that we should hate each other, that we should not do business with each other, and not turn this inter-dependence, that is, if you will, also economic, into a chance for all sides.