"K. Serb assembly de facto part of Serbia's authority"

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, PRIŠTINA -- Kosovo Serbs have today set up the Assembly of the Union of Municipalities of Kosovo and Metohija.

The delegates vote during today's session (Tanjug)
The delegates vote during today's session (Tanjug)

The inaugural session, that took place in Kosovska Mitrovica, was attended by Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardžić, who said that Serbs in Kosovo now have democratically elected representatives and bodies of authority, Beta news agency reports.

These bodies, Samardžić told 45 delegates from 26 municipalities, will be de facto a part of Serbia's authority in the field, that will function to enable Serbs, Goranis and other non-Albanians to live safely in their land and as citizens of Serbia.

The assembly today adopted a declaration, that proclaims Kosovo a part of a whole and indivisible Republic of Serbia.

Radovan Ničić (SRS) was elected the assembly president, with Marko Jakšić (DSS) and Srđan Nikolić (SRS) as his deputies.

The delegates further say that they perceived "urgent need to protect their lives, rights, freedoms, dignity, identity, integrity, culture and property, and rejecting illegal secessionist acts, gathered by their own free will in Kosovska Mitrovica on Vidovdan, 2008, to, in line with the Constitution of Serbia, establish the Assembly of the Union of Municipalities of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija."

The assembly, the declaration adds, is a representative body for the citizens of Serbia in this province, that will work in publicly and aim to steer and harmonize the work of its member-municipalities.

The assembly has the right to send draft laws to the Serbian parliament, on those issues that are relevant to the residents of Kosovo.

Criticism

Earlier today in Priština, the Kosovo Albanian authorities condemned today’s formation of the Kosovo Serb assembly, while UNMIK Chief Lamberto Zannier said he "does not attach much importance to it".

International and Kosovo officials have criticized the decision of Serb leaders in northern Kosovo to form the assembly that would represent a separate representative political body for the Serb community.

The intensity of criticism coming from Priština over this idea does however vary depending on who you ask—the Kosovo institutions or international representatives.

Kosovo Albanian officials say that it is a means of further strengthening parallel structures, hampering the integration of Serbs into the system and institutions.

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu said that the formation of a Serb assembly would only further destabilize the situation, and found it opportune to call on citizens not to react to this measure, but to stick firmly to the peaceful course.

Neither do UNMIK officials accept ethnic separation in political representation, though their criticism has been significantly more tempered than that of their Kosovo counterparts.

Zannier said that he realized that this was a formation of an assembly of all municipalities. “The assembly has no operative role. As far as I can see, it will be more symbolic,” he said.

According to the UNMIK chief, it remained to be seen what would happen, and what decision would be taken in northern Kosovska Mitrovica, but, for the time being, one should not attach any particular importance to it.

“I really don’t think that this will cause any big changes on the ground,” he predicted.

Serbs celebrate Vidovdan

Serbs arrive to Gazimestan near Priština (FoNet)
Serbs arrive to Gazimestan near Priština (FoNet)

Some 2,000 Serbs gathered today in Gamizestan to celebrate Vidovdan and the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.

Patriarch Pavle and Bishop Amfilohije conducted the service, together with Bishop Artemije and other monks and nuns.

Kosovo Minister Slobodan Samardžić and Religion Minister Radomir Naumov, together with their associates, also attended the ceremony.

They were joined by some 100 Red Star FC supporters who had come to Gazimestan by both public and private transport, while three buses also arrived from Podgorica.

After the service, Artemije said that Gazimestan was the center of the Serb people, because all Serbs were there in their thoughts and prayers.

“The Lord is with us to help us uphold the Orthodox faith, to keep Kosovo within Serbia, because it is not only the territory, but the heart, of Serbia,“ said the Bishop.

The presence of KFOR patrols and UNMIK police was considerably higher than in previous years on roads leading from Gračanica, where a liturgy was held this morning, to Gazimestan.

Only those taking part at the celebration were allowed access to the Priština-Kosovska Mitrovica road from the Obilić junction, while others had to take an alternative route.

At the Gazimestan monument itself, built near a barbed wire fence, members of the Czech KFOR contingent responsible for the site, provided a water tank and mobile toilets for the first time.