Information Service

October 22, 2002

COMMUNIQUE OF SERB NATIONAL COUNCIL ON UPCOMING MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
SNC KM gives support to elections only as a way towards decentralization of Kosovo and Metohija

Gracanica, October 22, 2002
21:00 hours

At last night's meeting of political leaders of the Kosovo-Metohija Serbs with Federal Republic of Yugoslavia President Vojislav Kostunica and Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija head Nebojsa Covic a consensus was reached that Kosovo-Metohija Serbs should participate in municipal elections on October 26 after all in all locations where security and institutional conditions for this exist. A statement issued after the five hour-long meeting and distributed to the press says that Serbs will be ready to participate in local organs of government to the extent that an acceptable plan for decentralization is development immediately following the elections. The Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija accepts and support this joint statement in its entirety.

The security situation for the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija is extremely difficult and basic conditions for democratic and free elections still do not exist. Nevertheless, the majority of the participants in yesterday's meeting is convinced that by yesterday's statement UNMIK head Michael Steiner opened the path to te process of decentralization of the Province and the realization of the legitimate right of national communities to local, regional and national self-government in Kosovo and Metohija, in accordance with the principles of the European Charter on Local Self-Government.

The representatives of the SNC of Kosovo and Metohija will actively join in the scheduled discussion on the decentralization of Kosovo and Metohija in order to hold elections for the councils of the new municipalities/municipal units as soon as possible, as foreseen by Mr. Steiner's plan.

CHAIRMAN OF THE SERB NATIONAL COUNCIL OF KOSOVO AND METOHIJA BISHOP OF RASKA AND PRIZREN
+ A R T E M I J E

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Info-Service ERP
Comment by Fr. Sava (Janjic)

Serbs are not asking for ethnic segregation but for protection of their rights under conditions of ethnic discrimination
Serb enclaves are not product of self-isolation but response to overwhelming discrimination and insecurity

Decani, October 22, 2002

The most recent Serb request for decentralization of Kosovo and Metohija has been criticized in some Albanian language media as yet another attempt to introduce ethnic quotas in government and an effort to politically legalize the process of enclave formation. These objections would be justified if the Kosovo Serbs were truly able to hold a position as complete equals, as well as to enjoy all civil and individual rights and freedoms in the Province. Unfortunately, the enclaves which have existed in Kosovo and Metohija for the past three years are not the consequence of the self-isolation of the Serb people but, first and foremost, of the discrimination by the majority of the Albanian population which is building a society to meet the needs of only one national community. Under such unfavorable conditions, there is no other way of preserving basic safety of living except in enclaves where the Serbs enjoy limited freedom of movement, the right to work, use of their own language and freedom of worship at least locally.

Since Albanian political leaders have not projected a clear vision of a multiethnic and integral civil society in three years, the Serbs have the legitimate right to request the creation of municipal units for the purpose of preserving their ethnic, cultural and religious identity which will reflect the situation on the ground and enable the local administration to be nearer to national communities. The Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are really asking for their right to local, regional and national self-government which would provide long-term guarantees to the Serb community for surviving and staying in its historic homeland.

Therefore, the primary purpose of the request for decentralization is to prevent outvoting and marginalization of Serb representatives in the government and to create necessary prerequisites for Serbs to protect their basic interests within the administrative framework, something that is not possible within the existing structures of municipal government and which has discouraged the Serbs so far from participating in upcoming municipal elections.

For centuries Kosovo and Metohija has been a region where different communities lived together but an integrated multiethnicity has never existed. Thus, the decentralization of the Province at the local, regional and provincial level has the goal of institutionally enabling different communities with their own ethnic, cultural and religious traditions to live together within the framework of a democratic system in which every citizen will be equal before the law.

Fr. Sava (Janjic)
Serbian Orthodox Church

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Beta News Agency, Belgrade
October 22, 2002 22:17


KFOR CONFISCATES 260 TONS OF SMUGGLED CIGARETTES
Brother of Agim Ceku - the head of UN/NATO sponsored Kosovo protection corps - arrested

Beta, October 22, 2002

Pristina - During a search operation for arms and smuggled goods in Pec, members of KFOR arrested four people and confiscated 260 tons of smuggled cigarettes, KFOR in Pristina has advised. The names of the arrested people have not been released pending further investigation, the statement says. In one warehouse located on the Pec-Pristina road, Italian KFOR troops discovered 260 tons of smuggled cigarettes. With the help of UNMIK police, soldiers also discovered a small quanitity of weapons, five automatic rifles, five handguns, four radio transmitters and approximately 500 pieces of munition in two houses in Pec. The warehouse where the smuggled cigarettes were found has been sealed off by police pending the end of the investigation.

According to Albanian sources in Pristina, KFOR in Pec arrested the brother of Kosovo Protection Corps commander Agim Cheku and Ekrem Luka, the owner of the biggest private company in Kosovo, connecting them with the smuggling of enormous quantities of cigarettes. KFOR also arrest two other persons whose identities have not yet been revealed. The fear in Pristina is that these arrests may increase tensions in Kosovo and damage relations between UNMIK and KFOR on the one hand and the Albanian population on the other. Well-informed sources in Kosovo state that Ekrem Luka is believed to be close to the president of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, Ramush Hajradinaj, and other leaders of the former KLA from the Metohija region.

Translation, S. Lazovic, KDN

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Serbs to participate where it's safe | 10:52 | Beta

BELGRADE -- Tuesday - Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica last night talked with Serb representatives from Kosovo in the Federation Palace, his office stated.
Together with Coordination Centre for Kosovo head Nebojsa Covic they discussed coming local elections in the province.
They considered the statement from the UNMIK chief Michael Steiner's special envoy on steps towards decentralisation intended after the elections. It was concluded that the statement represents certain but insufficient progress regarding requested guarantees for local self-government.
However, they agreed that, despite incomplete guarantees Kosovo Serbs and those who were forced to leave it should take part in the elections - primarily in the areas which have required conditions of safety and existence of institutions.
Serbs will be ready to participate in local authorities to the degree in which acceptable concept of decentralisation would be made immediately after the elections, said in the statement from president's office.
Participants in the meeting have made the difficult decision of calling on Serbs to vote wherever possible in hope that the international community would in future approach the issue of mass repatriation and respect of basic human rights in Kosovo with more determination.

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Serbs begin election campaign in Kosovo | 19:24 | Beta

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Tuesday – Kosovo Serb political leaders today began their election campaign, with the aim of encouraging as many Serbs as possible to vote.
Serbs are seeking local government power in the five municipalities which have a Serb-majority population.
Serb official Oliver Ivanovic said it would be impossible to organise a real election campaign before the elections, which are just five days away.
The blame for any Serb failure in the elections will go to Kosovo governor Michael Steiner for his complete marginalisation of Serbs as a political factor, said Ivanovic.
Serbs are to be called on to vote only in Leposavic, Zubin Potok, Zvecan, Novo Brdo and Strpce.
“We can expect good results in these towns, as for the poor results in places where we will not vote, we shall ask Steiner to take responsibility for that,” added Ivanovic.

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No guarantees for Serbs in Steiner plan | 17:29 | FoNet

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Tuesday – The Serb National Council of Northern Kosovo has called on Serbs to vote in local government elections only in those municipalities where they are in the majority.
This applies only to Serbs in Zvecan, Leposavic, Zubin Potok, Strpce and Novo Brdo It does not include those in northern Mitrovica.
The Council is dissatisfied with UN governor Michael Steiner’s decentralisation plan for the provinces, because they say if offers no guarantees that even the minimum of Serb interests would be protected.
The plan proposes the establishment of municipal sub-units on an ethnic basis.
Northern Kosovo Serb leader Milan Ivanovic said today that he simply could not urge Serbs in northern Mitrovic to vote under those conditions.
“We are not boycotting these elections, just giving the international community some time to do the right thing and organise new elections within the next six months,” he said.
Ivanovic added that he did not expect a high turnout because Serbs had been called on to vote at short notice.

Information Service of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren
Kosovo and Metohija