UNITY AND COOPERATION - THE FIRST PRIORITIES OF KOSOVO AND METOHIJA SERBS

OFFICIAL COMMUNIQUE FROM THE MEETING OF THE SERB NATIONAL COUNCIL OF KOSOVO AND METOHIJA

Gracanica, August 24, 2002

At its thirteenth meeting held on August 24, 2002 in the residence hall of the Monastery of Gracanica, the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija discussed the position of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija at the present time, the outlook for their continued stay (and survival) in the region and the possibility of return of those expelled from the region. The Council was informed by the SNC Presidency of the registration of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija as an organization of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija uniting all patriotic and democratic forces, regardless of their political party affliliations, as long as they accept, strive to implement and support the directives of the Council, as adopted in document form at the SNC Assembly held in October 1999. The meeting was chaired by the president of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, Bishop Artemije (Radosavljevic) of Raska and Prizren. After comprehensive discussion, the Council adopted the following

CONCLUSIONS

1. The Council was pleased to receive a report regarding the meeting held in the Monastery of Sopocani on August 16, 2002 resulting in the unification and surmounting of earlier tensions and differences in views between the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija and the Serb National Council of Northern Kosovo. The Council expressed its willingness to continue to resolve all problems of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija in the future in unison and agreement, always harmonizing these views with representatives and officials of our homeland of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

2. The Council expressed its concern regarding the situation in northern Kosovo, especially in Mitrovica. We are all resolute that the truth regarding the indictment and attempted arrest of Dr. Milan Ivanovic must be presented in its entirety to the domestic and global communities in order to avoid every possible manipulation of this incident.

3. Following the report of representatives of the Return (Povratak) Coalition who participated in the Serb delegation in Washington at the invitation of the U.S. Institute for Peace and spoke with representatives of the Albanian community regarding the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, the outlook for common life and the resolution of problems in the Province, the Council expressed support for the position of the representatives of the Return Coalition that there can be no negotiations regarding the status of Kosovo and Metohija without representatives of the Serbian and Yugoslav governments, and that any solution not in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 cannot be imposed. The Council sees the resolution of the status of Kosovo and Metohija within the framework of Serbia and Yugoslavia, of which the Province is an integral part.

However, the Council once again and with regret ascertained that, with respect to this issue, the states of Serbia and Yugoslavia and its respective officials do not have a clear position and have not shown initiative with respect to the international community and the governments of influential countries which would enable the survival and return of Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija, as well as preserving state sovereignty over this territory.

Therefore, the Serb National Council appeals to the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, as well as to all officials of Serbia and Yugoslavia to formulate a clear strategy with respect to Kosovo and Metohija as quickly as possible. This strategy must be clear and compulsory for all relevant officials within Serbia and Yugoslavia in order to preserve their state and national interests in Kosovo and Metohija.

4. With regard to the upcoming local elections in Kosovo and Metohija, the Council noted with regret that all preparatory activities in the sense of political and organization measures have not been carried out in a timely manner by representatives of our governments.

a) A change in the election system was not requested in a timely manner and consequently the Serb community has found itself in an inequitable position.

b) Greater representation of Serbs in municipal assemblies in order to establish a more equitable balance between the Serb and Albanian communities was not requested in a timely manner.

c) The registration of voters in the Serb community and the control of the voter registration process were not adequately addressed in a timely manner by the Serb community or the states of Serbia and Yugoslavia.

d) Despite numerous appeals and requests by the SNC of Kosovo and Metohija, no campaign was initiated for a general registration of Serbs expelled from Kosovo and Metohija. This registration would have been of paramount significance for future elections for the Serb community in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as for the entire process of resolution of issues in this terrority.

e) Registration of candidates for the local elections in Kosovo and Metohija, and the timely selection of the best and most competent candidates for representatives in municipal assemblies and the creation of a common ballot for the Serb community, especially in municipalities where it is a minority, was not addressed in a timely manner. This has created the real possibility that we will not have a single representative in some municipalities, instead of a number of offices in proportion to our representation in the population. Consequently, in those municipalities where the Serb population was in the majority before the war, such as the municipalities of Novo Brdo and Strpce, it is possible that we will remain in the minority instead of assuming majority rule.

Therefore, the Council is of the opinion that this situation on the part of the Serb community on the eve of local elections demands comprehensive analysis and the adoption of urgent measures in order to make a timely and justified decision regarding participation in the upcoming elections.

5. With respect to the issue of decentralization, the Council zealously supports activities conducted thus far by a group of experts because decentralization is a key step in the further building of a multiethnic Kosovo and Metohija where no community (not even the Serbs) will any longer be the victim of discrimination and all will have an equal opportunity to build a common future in this region.

6. The Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija requests that the Yugoslav and Serbian Governments, as well as the Serbian Election Commission, more actively realize presidential elections for all communities in Kosovo and Metohija in the political and organization sense. The Council also requests that representatives of the international community ensure that UNMIK and KFOR enable and secure free elections for the office of Serbian president in Kosovo and Metohija in accordance with UN Resolution 1244. At the same time, the Council calls on all communities in Kosovo and Metohija to participate in these elections and to lend their full support to the building of a common future in Kosovo and Metohija.

7. The Council noted with regret that the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija remains very serious, first and foremost, for the Serb community. Appearances of improvement in the situation are illusory because it has essentially not changed; attacks on Serbs and thefts of their property continue to occur on a daily basis, as evidenced by the latest incident in Donja Brnjica. Criminals remain free and every attempt to arrest them is accompanied by further unrest and tensions. Support of these criminals by a part of the Albanian community further disturbs the Serb community and all other peace-loving peoples, which may have unforeseeable consequences. Therefore, the SNC requests that UNMIK and KFOR remain consistent in activities they have begun, and that they intensify their efforts to find and bring to justice all criminals who are working on destablizing not only the Kosovo and Metohija region but the entire Balkans.

President of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

Bishop of Raska and Prizren

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