Kosovo Constitution Still Challenged in North

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, April 11, 2014
Posted in category Balkan News, Balkans
Comments Off on Kosovo Constitution Still Challenged in North

Six years after Kosovo’s independence constitution came into force, authorities in Pristina are still struggling to implement it in the Serb-run north of the country.

Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga said the country’s “constitutionality and legality encompasses the whole of its territory, a country with functional and democratic institutions, based on all-inclusiveness.

“We have gone through the difficult process of institutional consolidation, aiming with understanding to guarantee the rights of each community, especially those of the Serbian community in the northern part of our country, rights which are ingrained in our Constitution,” Jahjaga told a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the constitution.

Kosovo’s highest legal act went into force two months after the country declared independence from Serbia in February of 2008, which Serbia still refuses to recognize.

Last April, however, Pristina and Belgrade reached an agreement on normalizing relations, designed to assist the integration of both countries into the EU.

The deal envisions the formation in the north of an Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo with broad powers, which will include the four Serb-run northern municipalities of North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok.

Hashim Thaci, the Kosovo Prime Minister, said the government had “established its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the whole territory of Kosovo”.

This was “guaranteed by setting police officers at all border crossing points, those in Jarinje and Brnjak [in the north] included”, he said.

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, northern Kosovo had been beyond the Pristina government’s control, while Serbia continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

According to the EU-mediated deal, Belgrade must dissolve all so-called parallel structures in health, education, police and courts and the local governments that it has installed in the north.

Last year, following the deal, Serbs in the north for the first time participated in local elections organized by the Kosovo authorities and elected new mayors.

Shpend Kursani, a political analyst, said there was still along way to go. “The constitution… in practice is not implemented in the whole of the territory”, he said.

Courts, customs and other bodies in the north did not use Kosovo’s own state symbols, he noted, among other points.

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