South Serbia Albanians Demand Talks With Belgrade
An assembly of Albanians from Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja (Southern Serbia / Eastern Kosovo) has adopted a declaration calling for dialogue with Serbia and Brussels, and pledging to boycott the forthcoming census. The assembly of ethnic Albanian leaders from the ethnically mixed border region sent their request for talks to Belgrade and the European Union, which is currently mediating negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo.
The 65 delegates also adopted a decision to boycott the census in Serbia scheduled for October.
“We are not satisfied with the attitude of the state, which treats Albanians discriminatorily,” Riza Halimi, the only Albanian MP in Serbia’s parliament, said.
Halimi, leader of the Movement for Democratic Action, the strongest Albanian party in the region, said the state was economically hostile to Albanians in southern Serbia.
“There are no investments in Presevo and Bujanovac whatsoever, there is great poverty and there are no new jobs, which is why Albanians are forced to move out,” said Halimi, who recalled that the unemployment rate in Presevo was 70 per cent.
Jonuz Musliu, speaker of the local assembly in Bujanovac, said the state had a “discriminatory attitude” towards Albanians, which threatened their fundamental rights.
“The state is deliberately not investing into this region in order to keep Albanians in poverty,” said Musliu, leader of the radical Movement for Democratic Progress.
“Albanians still don’t have the right to freely use national symbols and their language, and the region is not demilitarised, which is why we want the Albanian position discussed in Brussels,” said Musliu.
The assembly unanimously decided to boycott the census, partly because the census lists are being printed in Serbian, and partly because Albanians who have moved out of South Serbia to Kosovo cannot take part.
The region of Southern Serbia, which has a majority ethnic Albanian population, is still recovering from the armed conflicts in 2000 and 2001 between the security forces and Albanian insurgents of the self-styled Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac.
The conflict ended through the mediation of NATO and the international community.
According to Serb internet media B92, A decision was made by all ethnic Albanian councillors from the municipalities of “Lugina e Presheves” Preševo, Bujanovc-Bujanovac and Medvegja-Medveđa to boycott the upcoming census.
Ragmi Mustafa the Mayor and Albanian leader of Democratic, pointed out that municipal presidents or political parties did not have the right to change the decision. “the decision to boycott the census will not be changed but no state or international institutions have come to the Albanian representatives with such official request”.
“The requests to Albanians not to boycott the census were only made in the media, such request was never officially delivered to any of the Albanian leaders,” Mustafa pointed out.
He announced that a series of protests would be held in Bujanovac and Preševo over the condition in the education system and state institutions on the local level. Mustafa said also, a protest against numerous problems in the education system that have not been addressed in years will be held in Bujanovac on 13 of September. Another protest will be held in Presheva valley on the 21st of September, over problems in the local administration, he added.