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Kosovo’s ex-intelligence chief publishes ‘leaked’ Association for Serb Municipalities

Burim Ramadani, the former head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, has published what he says is a leaked copy of the EU-US draft of the statute for the Association of Serb Municipalities for the North of Kosovo, a key demand in an ongoing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, backed by the EU.

Ramadani published the document on his website in English and Albanian, stating it is the same version given to Prime Minister Albin Kurti. He adds it is significantly different from others on the table before, including Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Serbia.

At the end of October, representatives of the US, EU, Germany, Italy and France submitted a draft of the Association’s statute to Kosovo. The association was agreed upon in 2013 but was not implemented following a 2015 ruling from Kosovo’s Constitutional Court, which stated it was unconstitutional.

Since then, the pressure has been on Pristina to implement it, with Kurti and President Vjosa Osmani insisting an association is possible. Still, it must be in line with the constitution.

The draft, totalling 45 statutes across seven chapters, foresees the establishment of the association in North Mitrovia. The association would be a self-managing framework for the Kosovo-Serb community within the existing municipal level of local self-government, with no additional executive powers.

It would take the form of a legal personality and have the right to own movable and immovable property, have joint ownership of companies that provide local services, conclude contracts, be sued and sue.

The association would also be required to include other non-Serb communities in all bodies to reflect the ethnic diversity of member municipalities, including Albanian. It could also enter into cooperation agreements with other local and international associations of municipalities, regions, and other local self-government units in other countries.

In addition, the association would have its symbols, including a flag and a coat of arms.

It also foresees the possibility of financial support from Serbia, and the donation of goods and equipment from the country will be exempt from any tax or duty. All financial support, however, is subject to scrutiny and supervision by Kosovo authorities as provided for by law. Other sources of financing include contributions from members, income from services provided by the association, its companies, or assets, transfers from central authorities, donations and grants.

The association, the draft reads, has the right to promote and protect the Kosovo Serb community’s rights and interests, including the right to approve decisions, work regulations, and declarations. 

It can also manage education and health institutions that Serbia directly finances. As such, the “Kosovo Serbian Education Network” and “Kosovo Serbian Health Network” will be established as private providers of education and health under the responsibility of the Association, highlighting Serbia as the financial contributor, as well as the main offices of these providers currently located in Serbia.

The association will also fund various health and social initiatives and facilitate the payment of social welfare assistance from Serbia to beneficiaries residing in Kosovo.

In terms of structure, it will consist of an assembly, president and vice president, seven-person board, 30-person advisory council, administration, and complaints office.

The association’s activity will be monitored for two years by the European Union after its establishment, with the possibility of this being extended.

Ramadani described the draft as “Very broad and serious in the opportunity it gives to Serbs to function within Kosovo.”

Minorities in Kosovo enjoy considerable rights under the constitution, including Serbian being an official language, guaranteed seats in parliament regardless of election results, representation at a municipal level, the right to nominate key police officials in Serb majority areas, Serbian language taught and studied in Serb-majority schools instead of Albanian, and at least one minister from the Serb minority in government.

Peter Stano, the Commission spokesperson for foreign affairs told Euractiv “I do not know who Mr Ramadani is and I see no reason to comment on anything that he might be claiming or publishing.”

He added that a new balanced European proposal for the association was presented at the end of Europe and was discussed by both parties. The EU proposal, he said, has not been made public since diplomatic efforts are ongoing.

“We never pass on official documents that are being discussed and expect the same from the partners, as it is normal practice in international mediation to conduct the process in confidentiality,” he said, adding it is the Commission’s long-standing policy not to comment on alleged leaks.

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