Ethnic Albanian leaders from the Preševo Valley say redrawing of borders between Kosovo and Serbia proper is a good solution

The newspaper quoted Preševo municipal president Ragmi Mustafa as saying that this solution “would contribute to the preservation of peace in the entire Balkans, if crucial factors managed to agree and support the swap of the territory.”

A Serbian Army base known as Jug has been officially opened near the town of Bujanovac in South Serbia, next to the Kosovo and Macedonia border.

While Serbian officials say the base will offer a guarantee for peace and stability in the region, ethnic Albanians are against its opening.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said at the opening ceremony on Monday said that base will be a key factor of stability in the region. “The Army is not only a guarantor of sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also one of the key factors in the country in the fight against organised crime and terrorism,” Tadic said.

According to him, the base will play an important role in preparing the country’s army for international peacekeeping missions. He said only those who do not wish for peace and are on the side of organised crime will not be pleased at its opening.

But the heads of the local governments of Presevo and Bujanovac representing the Albanian community that makes the majority in these municipalities did not attend the opening ceremony, and according to the President of the local assembly in Bujanovac, Jonuz Musliu, they were not invited.

Musliu, who was one of the commanders of the rebel ethnic Albanians in the 2001-2001 clashes between ethnic Albanians and the Serbian government in the region, strongly opposes the building of bases in the vicinity of Bujanovac.

“Instead of demilitarisation, we build-up the armed forces, which is very disturbing for the Albanian population,” Musliu said.

The President BDL Skender Destani considers that the money invested in the base could have been used for economic recovery in the region.

“In addition to the further militarisation of the region that upsets the Albanians, I think that instead of the base, the money should have been invested in infrastructure and the opening of new jobs,” Destani told Balkan Insight.

The military base, which authorities say is one of the largest and most modern in the region extending to 35 hectares, will be able to accommodate about 1,000 soldiers. It is located on the hill Cepotina, about five kilometers south of Bujanovac and several kilometres from the border with Macedonia and Kosovo.

Its construction began six years ago, well after the end of the armed conflict between rebel ethnic Albanians in the municipalities of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja and Serbian security forces in southern Serbia.

Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac said that some 1.7 billion dinars (about 18.3 million euros) has been invested in its construction and that it is “the largest infrastructure building built in past few decades by the Ministry of Defense.”

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