Deadline expires for suspended KPS Serbs
More than 200 Serb police officers, members of the Kosovo police, KPS, returned to their duties on Tuesday, a KPS spokesman said.Source: B92, Tanjug
Arber Beka said that 106 Serb police officers from Gnjilane region returned to their posts, that is 97 pct of the suspended members. In Peć region all Serb members of KPS resumed their posts, whereas in Priština their number is not yet determined.
The final information on the number of Serbs who have returned to their jobs in KPS will be announced in Priština later in the evening.
The Serb police officers have been suspended with pay for refusing to follow the chain of command of the KPS, upon the ethnic Albanians' unilateral proclamation of the independence of the province on February 17, 2008.
Earlier in the day, EULEX Chief Yves de Kermabon earlier appealed to the Serb officers to return, stressing that there would be no more extensions.
“This is the final deadline,” de Kermabon warned in a brief statement, adding that the exact deadline was 16:00 CET. De Kermabon’s call echoes similar appeals sent out by Kosovo officials a month and a half ago.
Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanović told B92 that the political will existed within the Serbian government to urge the Serb officers to return to their posts.
“We’re holding intensive talks with the EULEX mission and we’re very close to a solution, as it’s absolutely unthinkable for Serbs in the north of Kosovo to be in the KPS, and the Serbs south of the Ibar to leave the KPS,” Bogdanović said.
“What’s much more necessary is for the Serbs living south of the Ibar to have their own police, as the problem with security is much bigger down there, the problem with freedom of movement is much greater, the problem with legal protection is much greater,” stressed the minister.
He said that an appeal would follow shortly and that certain conditions for their return had already been agreed.
“We’ve already agreed that UNMIK police should be in all stations and sub-stations. We’re close to an agreement for the deputy to be a representative of the Serb community, who that command chain will go through, via the EULEX mission, and I hope that we’ll call on the Serbs to return to the KPS very soon,” Bogdanović said.
Around 250 Serbs are waiting to return. Since the appeal to return and the warning that they faced dismissed, around 50 of the 300 suspended officers have returned to the service.
They have been on paid suspension for a year and a half, after refusing to be part of the KPS command chain following the province’s unilateral declaration of independence.
The KPS state that should the Serbs fail to return to their posts, a competition will quickly be announced to find replacements for them from the Serb community.
Ivanović: Return must be based on agreement
Kosovo Ministry State Secretary Oliver Ivanović told B92 that it was important for Serbs to return to the KPS, but that an agreement needed to be reached first.
“The Serbs should come back to the police, but it cannot be chaotic or spontaneous. Those are bad decisions, they have to return on the basis of some kind of agreement. EULEX mustn’t rush either those people or us, it should be much more constructive, so that we can bring the long-running talks on this issue to a successful conclusion,” said Ivanović.
The state secretary explained that it was no good for the Serbs who were in the police “not to be receiving their wages or being of use to their people in Kosovo,” but nor was it good “for EULEX to rush and pressurize with these artificially created time frames, without having first signed any agreement.”
Asked whether the government had a plan as to what to do with these people until they returned to their jobs, he replied that the officers themselves were not so much the problem, as the people who depended on their services and the population that would be left with insufficient police protection, particularly south of the Ibar.
“In a situation where the Serbs have left the police, we have a situation in Serb regions where only Albanian policemen control and stop people, and react inadequately, and a big potential for incidents exists there,” stressed Ivanović.
Speaking of the blockade at the administrative crossings, the state secretary warned that if the Serbs failed to condemn it or identify the people manning the blockades and their motives, EULEX would, at one point, intervene.
He said that local authorities stood behind such incidents, warning these people that they were not in a position to conduct state policy and should focus more on local problems.