Kosovo’s PM Hashim Thaci told political directors of the foreign ministries of the 25 member states of the International Steering Group, ISG, that the strategy for northern Kosovo is above all crucial for improving the lives of the people who reside there.
Thaci said that Kosovo’s government has allocated €2 million for the creation of new municipalities in Kosovo, including in the north. In the statement issued by the prime minister’s office, Thaci said: “Serb people in this part of Kosovo should be able to choose their leader without any fear and pressure from Belgrade.”
Thaci stated that he had no doubts regarding the support of the ISG member states for the implementation of democracy and rule of law in northern Kosovo. “The strategy should be implemented to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Kosovo, a state which your countries recognise and respect.”
He added that the difficulty of implementing legislation from Pristina in the north of Kosovo was having many negative effects, both politically and financially, on Kosovo. Thaci claimed that Kosovo’s government is determined to establish law and order in the north as foreseen by Kosovo’s constitution, the Comprehensive Plan for Kosovo Status and UN Resolution 1244. He said that much is to be done and asked for the help of the participants of the ISG meeting.
“This plan has been made for the people in the north because it will create a new municipality for Mitrovica north,” Thaci said. “Therefore, people will choose their legitimate leader and he will be required by law to work for them,” he added.
He said that Belgrade has used the people in the north for political reasons. “We want to offer to those people a better option that comes as a result of democracy and transparent institutions there,” Thaci added. “We are determined to create a better future and I expect your suggestions for the way forward in the development and strengthening of our country,” Thaci’s statement ended.
The ISG was meeting in Vienna to discuss the mandate of the International Civilian Representative, Pieter Feith. The International Civilian Representative, ICR, is the chief of the International Civilian Office, ICO, in Kosovo.
In a press release following its meeting, the International Steering Group welcomed the commitment of the Kosovo authorities to pursue all necessary efforts in order to implement the Comprehensive Status Proposal.
The ISG said that a key challenge for Kosovo would be to further integrate all communities, particularly the entire Kosovo Serb community.
“The ISG fully supports the necessity of strengthened efforts for northern Kosovo taking account of the recommendations of the ICO and to be further developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders,” the ISG press release reads.
The ISG called upon all parties, including the Republic of Serbia, to play a constructive role in the effort to ensure better living conditions in northern Kosovo.
“Kosovo’s territorial integrity is intrinsically linked to regional stability. Enhanced regional cooperation is in the best interest of the Western Balkans and its European perspective,” ISG claimed.
The steering group did not take any specific decision on the mandate of the International Civilian Representative; it did, however, suggest that the ICR’s mandate should shift from supporting the establishment of Kosovo’s institutional framework to the supervision of implementation.
The strategy for the north, drafted by the International Civilian Office, and Kosovo’s government, calls for the creation of a new municipality in Mitrovica North and the dissolution of the parallel structures funded by the Serbian government.
Recently, the municipal preparatory team for Mitrovica was established. The 14-member team, appointed by the ICO, consists of three Albanians, two Bosnians, and nine Serbs. The group is mandated to prepare local elections and legal and administrative infrastructure.
Belgrade has rejected the ICO’s as yet incomplete strategy for Northern Mitrovica and the surrounding area north of the Ibar.