Albanians of Presevo Valley (Eastern Kosovo / Southern Serbi: Preshevë, Bujanoc and Medvegja) a desire for succession continues. In an unofficial referendum in 1992, an overwhelming majority of ethnic Albanians in the Presevo Valley expressed their desire to join Kosovo. By often referring to the region as “East Kosovo”, ethnic Albanian politicians draw an implicit link between Serb-inhabited territory north of the River Ibar in Kosovo and the future of southern Serbia.
Uncertainties about Kosovo’s status – particularly its predominantly ethnic Serb-populated north – continue to have an impact on politics in south Serbia. Here, particularly the Presevo Valley, a desire for succession continues. In an unofficial referendum in 1992, an overwhelming majority of ethnic Albanians in the Presevo Valley expressed their desire to join Kosovo. Following the 1999 conflict in Kosovo, UCPMB (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Preshevës, Medvegjës dhe Bujanocit) Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac with support from Kosovo Liberation Army, attacked police and army units.
The Konculj Agreement of May 2001 brought about a fragile state of peace. Since then steps have been taken to provide security, freedom of movement and the right to return to the Presevo Valley; develop a “multiethnic and multi-confessional society”; and support economic and social development. The Coordination Body for the Municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja – an administrative and executive body established to coordinate the activities of the Serbian government in south Serbia – has long been undermined by regular Albanian boycotts and a failure to deliver in specified areas. After an absence of almost three-years, Albanian leaders from southern Serbia returned to the Co-ordination Body in 2009, after an agreement was reached on restructuring the body’s composition and competencies, including an amendment that means all decisions will now be made by consensus.
Whilst there have been no major incidents in recent years, inter-ethnic tensions persist. Ethnic Albanian grievances derive, in part, from their perceived under-representation in public institutions and the judiciary, and the presence of Serbian security forces; whilst ethnic Serbs seek the establishment of multi-ethnic local government in Bujanovac, where they constitute some 35% of the population. Uncertainties about Kosovo’s status – particularly its predominantly ethnic Serb-populated north – continue to have an impact on politics in south Serbia.
By often referring to the region as “East Kosovo”, ethnic Albanian politicians draw an implicit link between Serb-inhabited territory north of the River Ibar in Kosovo and the future of southern Serbia. The de facto partitioning of Kosovo could therefore encourage Kosovo Albanians and ethnic Albanians in Southern Serbia to seek “the unification of the Presevo Valley with Kosovo”.
The situation in northern Kosovo, has set in motion the Presevo Valley Albanians, who have launched protests, seeking to change the economic situation, education and in health. This is the municipality of Presevo, southern Serbia, the Albanians prefer to call eastern Kosovo, which includes the municipality and it Bojanovcit Medvedja. Unlike the above mentioned municipalities which consist of Albanian, Serbian and other communities, in the municipality live 50 thousand inhabitants, of whom 95% are Albanian. The economic situation in this commune are complicated and more every day. 70% of inhabitants are unemployed, while the rest favored the liberalization of visas for Serbia, working temporarily abroad. Political parties of the Presevo Valley of the case require the involvement of the valley in the talks between Pristina and Belgrade.
The first step was made with the agreement signed on recognition of diplomas, and it only formally, because in practice nothing has changed. The only Albanian deputy in the Serbian Parliament, Riza Halimi by international demands to turn their eyes from the Presevo Valley Albanians. Mayor of Presevo Albanians Ragmi Mustafa warns that will not stop there. Although their protests would not be in the form of barricades as those of the Serbs in the north, will be intensified until the Albanian question to be addressed in the valley. To solve the problems of Albanians in the Presevo Valley, the government of Serbia in cooperation with the international body formed in 2001 coordinating. Although 10 years have passed to the Albanians situation remains the same, are unemployed, was not recognized Kosovo’s degrees, and was not allowed to use national symbols. The health situation seems even more difficult after three Albanian municipalities Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja has no hospital.
According to the census, there are 98,647 Albanians in Serbia if the Kosovo Albanians are not counted. Of those, 72,952 lived in the Preševo Valley, at the far south of Serbia near the border with Kosovo. They mainly live in the municipalities of Preševo (Albanian: Preshevë), and Bujanovac (Albanian: Bujanoc), as well as in the part of the municipality of Medveđa (Albanian: Medvegjë).
In the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medvedja Albanians form the majority of population (89.1% ) The region of Bujanovac and Preševo is widely known as the Preševo Valley (Serbian: Прешевска Долина, Preševska Dolina, Albanian: Lugina e Preshevës).
In 1992, the Albanians of southern Serbia organized a referendum in which they voted that Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac should join Kosovo. Between 1999 and 2001, an ethnic Albanian guerilla organization, the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac (in Albanian Ushtria Çlirimtare e Preshevës, Medvegjës dhe Bujanocit, UÇPMB), was operational in this region with a goal to secede these three municipalities from the FR Yugoslavia and join them to Kosovo upon achieving independence. The activities attracted less international media interest than the related events of Kosovo and Macedonia.
Since then, the Albanian Coalition from Preševo Valley has gained representation in the National Assembly of Serbia where it currently holds a seat.
Education in Albanian is provided for primary and secondary schools. There may be some university-level courses provided in Albanian, in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, but students mainly do their university degree in University of Priština in Kosovo, in Macedonia, or in Albanian Universities. The main religion of Albanians in this region is Islam.
- RTP (Radio Televizioni i Preshevës)
- RTB (Radio Televizioni i Bujanocit)
- “Presheva Jonë” The National Information Agency (www.preshevajone.com)
- “Nacionali” organ KNSH
Prominent Albanian individuals
• Riza Halimi, The only Albanian deputy in the Serbian Parliament
• Galip Beqiri, Chairman of Albanian National Council of the Presevo Valley
• Ragmi Mustafa (PDSH) a politician, the former mayor of Presevo municipality.
• Shaip Kamberi, a politician, the former mayor of Bujanovac municipality.
• Jonuz Musliu, the President of the local assembly in Bujanovac
• Skender Destani, pediatrician, leader of the Democratic Union of the Presevo Valley
• Ramadan Ismajli, the President of OVL – UCPMB