Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Serbia’s threat to remove a memorial to ethnic Albanian fighters in the Presevo Valley breaks international law.“In every free country it’s the local authorities and not the central government that decides which historical or cultural monuments to erect,” Berisha said in a statement on Sunday.
Taking that power away from the local authorities “would be a flagrant breach of European conventions for human rights, local autonomy and minorities, which Serbia as a member of the Council of Europe has committed to uphold”, he added.
Serbian prime minister Ivica Dacic has warned that unless the authorities in the mainly ethnic Albanian towns of Bujanovac and Presevo in south Serbia remove the monument to the fighters, the central government will step in and demolish it.
Dacic said the monument was “an open provocation, designed to show that Serbia does not control part of its territory”.
The monument, dedicated to veterans of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, was erected in November in front of the town hall in Presevo, which is home to some 50,000 ethnic Albanians.
The ethnic Albanian guerrilla force launched a brief armed struggle against Serbian security forces in 2000.
The fighters agreed to disarm in 2001 following an internationally-brokered peace deal, after which the Serbian military re-entered the demilitarised area near the border with Kosovo with the approval of NATO.
In December, some former ethnic Albanian fighters threatened armed rebellion if the monument is removed, the website Preseva jone reported.