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The Information Service of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

Gracanica, October 17, 2000

  • Bishop Artemije calls on President Kostunica to bring together the Kosovo Serbs
  • SNC delegation visits Novo Brdo and Kamenica
  • Meeting of the Executive Board of the SNC of Central Kosovo
  • Greater role for Serbs in the Kosovo police
  • Reaction of the SNC to the statement of Dr. Kouchner in Zagreb: Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija on the eve of local Kosovo and republic elections in Serbia
  • BISHOP ARTEMIJE CALLS ON PRESIDENT KOSTUNICA TO BRING TOGETHER THE KOSOVO SERBS

    On October 15 the president of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, Episcope Artemije, addressed a letter to the FRY president, Dr. Vojislav Kostunica, in which he calls upon him and representatives of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia "to organize a meeting of all relevant political forces of the Kosovo and Metohija Serbs as soon as possible with the goal of clearly defining the common strategies and interests of the states of Serbia and FRY, as well as citizens living in the region of the southern Serbian province".

    "To date," according to the words of Bishop Artemije, "suitable conditions for the creation of a common platform did not exist because there was no democratic government to stand behind state interests and act as a cohesive force. However, with the defeat of the forces which introduced discord and dissention among our people and created even greater confrontations with the world in the elections, we can now finally dedicate ourselves to our primary goal consistently and in unison, that is, to the survival and continued stay of the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija within the framework of a democratic Serbia and FRY. Our Church and the SNC, and prior to it, the All-Serb Church-People's Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija, have consistently supported this idea in past years," emphasized Episcope Artemije in his letter to Dr. Vojislav Kostunica.

    "At this moment in Kosovo and Metohija, what we need least is new divisions, personal ambition and a struggle for power. What we do need, first and foremost, is wise and domestically oriented leadership by the democratic government, a responsible and constructive approach by all of us toward our common interests and obligatory respect for our mutual political differences and the specific conditions in the field," the letter goes on to say.

    "At a common meeting where, besides yourself and representatives of the democratic opposition, the political representatives of the Kosovo and Metohija Serbs, the Church and experts in issues related to Kosovo and Metohija would also participate, we would be able to affirm before the whole world a serious and responsible democratic alternative to the past policies of the regime and the extremists policies of the majority of Albanian parties. By doing so, we would create realistic conditions, with rational and dignified cooperation with the international community within the framework of the mandate of Resolution 1244, to more effectively protect the interests of our country and our people in a manner in which this was not previously done," concludes Bishop Artemije at the end of his letter to the FRY president.

    SNC DELEGATION VISITS NOVO BRDO AND KAMENICA

    Today the bishop of Raska and Prizren, Artemije, the president of the SNC, visited the region of Novo Brdo, Kamenica, Donja Korminjana and Makres together with Msrs. Dusan Ristic, Randjel Nojic and Dragan Velic. The representatives of the SNC talked with the people of this region, who welcomed Bishop Artemije and his associates warmly wherever he went, about ways of improving their living conditions. The SNC delegation showed special interest in the development of a project initiated by U.S. government organizations in cooperation with U.S. KFOR.

    In addressing the people, Episcope Artemije emphasized that with the democratic changes in Serbia, the right conditions have finally been created for the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, and especially the position of the suffering and persecuted people of this region, to be resolved in a responsible manner. The president of the SNC called on the people to support President Kostunica and the new democratic government and to establish the best and most active form of cooperation possible with its representatives. The SNC also appeals that THE VICTORY OF THE PEOPLE MEANS THAT NO ONE HAS LOST and that revenge and personal struggles for power and economic interests in Kosovo and Metohija are to be avoided at all costs. At this moment what is needed most is unity and a common effort to preserve our state and national interests in this region through serious policies, said Bishop Artemije in his meeting with the people of this region.

    MEETING OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF THE SNC OF CENTRAL KOSOVO

    On October 16 a meeting was held in Gracanica of the executive board of the SNC of Central Kosovo presided over by Mr. Dragan Velic. The meeting was attended by approximately 20 representatives of the executive board from all parts of the central Kosovo enclave. The following topics and tasks were discussed at the meeting:

    - the political security situation and the influence of new democratic changes in Serbia on events in Kosovo and Metohija
    - the implementation of the Agenda for Coexistence and the formation of local community offices in multiethnic municipalities
    - the development and tasks of the municipal boards of the SNC of Central Kosovo

    It was concluded at the meeting that democratic changes in Serbia and the victory of Mr. Vojislav Kostunica in presidential elections represents a turning point in the development of the political situation in Kosovo and Metohija. Because of the dissatisfaction of the Kosovo Albanians with this change, it is possible to expect attacks on the Serb population; however, at the same time, conditions have been created for the better and more effective protection of the interests and rights of the Kosovo Serbs through the participation of the democratic government in Belgrade in the political process in Kosovo and Metohija.

    Implementation of the program for existence and the formation of local community offices which would enable better living conditions for the Serb people in areas where they live remains one of the priorities of the SNC of Kosovo and Metohija. Of the 14 local community offices planned in the area of Central Kosovo, to date 10 have been opened in cooperation with UNMIK. Results are especially apparent in the area of Gracanica where the process of building and infrastructure renewal has just been completed, an Internet Center has been opened and the Simonida Medical Clinic is continuing intensively with its work. The SNC is continuing its cooperation with KFOR in these areas through the local community offices. Preparations are in progress for the asphalting of some roads which connect Serb communities as well as for security measures which are expected to contribute to better security conditions for our population.

    GREATER ROLE FOR SERBS IN THE KOSOVO POLICE

    In accordance with the Joint Agreement signed on June 19 by Bishop Artemije and Dr. Bernard Kouchner an increase in efforts to include more Kosovo-Metohija Serbs in the work of the Kosovo Police and to deploy them in areas where our people live is expected. The SNC has observed that the number of Serbs in the Kosovo police, which is under the auspices of UNMIK, is gradually increasing which has led to the opening of several police branch offices in Serb communities where local Serb policemen in cooperation with their international colleagues are participating in the maintenance of security.

    Even though an increase in interest among Serbs in the Kosovo police is noticeable, the number of police academy attendees is still relatively constant. In the second police class of attendees which began training on November 29, 1999 there were 28 Serb participants; in the third class (February 21, 2000), 22 Serbs; in the fourth class which began training on March 27, 2000, there were 11 Serbs; in the fifth class (April 24), 11 Serbs; in the sixth class (May 22), 15 Serbs; in the seventh class (June 17) there were 26 Serbs; and in the eight class of the police academy in Vucitrn which began on July 24, 20 Serbs were enrolled.

    Of the total number of attendees who successfully completed training (1,384) as of the end of July 2000, 6.2% (86 policemen) are Serbs.

    The priority task of the SNC remains to assist the UN mission in the recruitment of new Serb policemen.

    REACTION OF THE SNC TO THE STATEMENT OF DR. KOUCHNER IN ZAGREB: SERBS OF KOSOVO AND METOHIJA ON THE EVE OF LOCAL KOSOVO AND REPUBLIC ELECTIONS IN SERBIA

    With regard to the statement of Dr. Bernard Kouchner in Zagreb that the Kosovo Serbs allegedly are not participating in local elections because they were so ordered by Belgrade and that some Serbs are now asking to participate in the elections, the SNC feels a need to once again inform the public that the great majority of Kosovo-Metohija Serbs are not participating in local elections in Kosovo primarily due to the lack of basic security conditions and respect for human rights which the UN mission in Kosovo was tasked with securing prior to holding elections in accordance with Resolution 1244. Another reason is the fact that the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic did not allow the registration of Serb refugees on the territory of central Serbia; consequently, with two-thirds of the Serb people displaced from Kosovo and Metohija unable to participate in the census and voter registration and elections, it was not possible to accept a census and voter registration and participation in the elections for only 100,000 Kosovo Serbs.

    To the best knowledge of the SNC there are no outstanding requests by Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija to participate in local elections as security conditions still remain poor and unacceptable. In order for the Serb community to participate in elections in the Province at some point in the future, it is necessary to secure a minimally dignified life and respect for basic human rights for the Serb population. Under conditions of extreme ethnic discrimination and continued attacks on Serbs and their churches and cemeteries, the Serb people has the moral right to ask for the consistent implementation of Resolution 12444, which foresees freedom for all citizens, prior to participation in the elections. As well, in the future is necessary to more actively work on the counting and voter registration of all Kosovo-Metohija Serbs, both those in Kosovo and those who are presently refugees, and to do so in cooperation with the FRY authorities. Only then will it be possible to actively participate in the elections.

    The issue of possible participation in republic elections in Kosovo is of a completely different nature. Keeping in mind that participation in republic elections affirms the firm position of the Kosovo-Metohija Serbs that Kosovo is a part of Serbia and FRY and that the improvement of living conditions and freedom does not depend much on the new authorities in Belgrade (who do not bear the responsibility for what is now happening in Kosovo), it is possible to expect the participation of all political forces of the Kosovo Serbs in these elections scheduled for the second half of December.

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