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Community of Serb Municipalities
Community of Serb Municipalities
Заједница српских општина Zajednica srpskih opština
|Brussels Agreement||19 April 2013 (2013-04-19)|
|Administrative center||North Mitrovica, Kosovo|
|• Total||1,708 km2 (659 sq mi)|
|• Density||73/km2 (190/sq mi)|
The Community of Serb Municipalities (Serbian: Заједница српских општина, ЗСО / Zajednica srpskih opština, ZSO), or Association of Serb Municipalities (Albanian: Asociacioni i Komunave Serbe, AKS), is a planned self-governing association of municipalities with a Serb majority population in Kosovo.[a]
The proposal for the association came as a result of the 2013 Brussels Agreement negotiated and concluded by the governments of Kosovo[a] and Serbia. In accordance with the competences given by the European Charter of Local Self-Government and Kosovo law, the participating municipalities would be entitled to cooperate in exercising their powers collectively through the association. The association would have full overview of the areas of economic development, education, health, urban and rural planning.
The Community was expected to be officially established within Kosovo's legal framework in 2015, but is indefinitely postponed over conflicts about extent of powers.
After the end of the 1998–99 Kosovo War, the United Nations mission United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo established under the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, took formal control over the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija. In the province, there were 194,190 Kosovo Serbs (9.9% of its total population), according to the latest Yugoslav census in 1991. During and after the war, many of them became refugees and internally displaced persons; estimates say that around one third of them emigrated to the region of Central Serbia.
In February 2003, an Assembly of the Community of Municipalities of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija was founded with the headquarters in North Mitrovica, as an association of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo. It was considered illegitimate by the Government of Kosovo, as it exercised legislative and executive authority through Assembly over the territory of Kosovo (mostly in North Kosovo).
In 2005, part of the Serbia-Kosovo negotiation was the Serbian side's call for the establishment of Serb municipalities and constitutional and legal protection of Serbs. UN Special Representative (UNOSEK) Søren Jessen-Petersen and Kosovo speaker Daci reiterated the ruling out of partition.
On 17 February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory; also, the association continued to exist.
2013–2015: Brussels Agreement and Formation
In accordance with the Brussels Agreement, a Community of Serb Municipalities with the headquarters in North Mitrovica was planned to be established. Unlike the former Association, it holds no legislative authority, having only a "full overview power in the areas of economic development, education, health, urban and rural planning" in accordance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government and Kosovo law.
Its formation was predicted by the Brussels Agreement signed between Serbia and Kosovo. This agreement represents an important step in process of accession of Serbia to the European Union. By this agreement, it was also agreed that Serbia will not block accession of Kosovo to the European Union and vice versa. This agreement was also praised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who said that it guarantees broad powers to municipalities with Serb majority in Kosovo. The Community would include these municipalities: North Kosovska Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavić, Zvečan, Štrpce, Klokot-Vrbovac, Gračanica, Novo Brdo, Ranilug and Parteš.
In one interview for Radio Television of Kosovo, Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi said that the establishment of an Association of Serb municipalities is in essence acceptable by the Constitution of Kosovo and Ahtisaari Plan, while the AAK party leader Ramush Haradinaj supported this by saying that the Constitution of Kosovo allows the association of municipalities, but without holding legislative, judicial or executive power. In November 2014, Ljubomir Marić, one of the coordinators with the duty of establishing the Community of Serb Municipalities stated that it would be based on the South Tyrol model in Italy and that he expected to establish two more Serb municipalities in Gora and Prilužje.
The Gorani people have stated that they want Gora (a former municipality with Gorani majority that was merged with the Albanian-inhabited Opolje to form the Dragaš municipality which has an Albanian majority) to join the Community of Serb municipalities. On 3 November 2013, 70% of Gorani voted in favor of establishing the Gora municipality as part of the Community of Serb municipalities, according to Gorani political leader Safet Kuši.
The formation was expected in 2015, but later postponed.
On 9 November 2015, Kosovo's proposal to become a UNESCO member state has failed, due to shortage of required 2/3 of votes in favor at the UNESCO General Conference. Day later, on 10 November 2015, the Government of Kosovo froze previously signed Agreement to establish Community of Serb Municipalities; the decision was condemned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Ivica Dačić who called it a "threat to regional stability" and a "major blow to the Brussels dialogue". In December 2015, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo proclaimed parts of 2013 Agreement unconstitutional. Since then, the realization of the Agreement was put on hold and Kosovo fell into the political crisis with constant clashes between Kosovo Albanian parties in the government and opposition, with former backing up the Agreement and latter criticizing it, saying that Kosovo Serbs would be "privileged" if the Agreement was implemented, even though the Community was meant to improve the life of Serbs who live in harsh conditions in Serb-majority enclaves.
In September 2017, following the 2017 Kosovan parliamentary election, the Serb List political party agreed to form the Government of Kosovo led by Ramush Haradinaj of Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, under main condition that the Community of Serb Municipalities be established.
The association would include these municipalities: North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavić, Zvečan, Štrpce, Klokot, Gračanica, Novo Brdo, Ranilug and Parteš. Total area of these municipalities stands at 1,708 km2 (659 sq mi) (15.66% of Kosovo's total area).
The following table shows the area and population figures of these municipalities:
|Municipality||District||Area||Area in km²||Population|
|North Mitrovica||Mitrovica||North Kosovo||11||29,460|
The Community's population estimates range between 70,000 and 125,000 inhabitants. The correct number of the population is unknown, due to the boycott of 2011 Kosovo census in North Kosovo and partial boycott in southern Serbian enclaves.
There are seven municipalities in Kosovo with an ethnic Serb majority. The Albanian population in these municipalities ranged up to 25%, with relative majority in Novo Brdo, Štrpce and Klokot. However, after the independence declared in 2008 and the crisis in North Kosovo (2011–13), the Albanian population in the area moved to other Albanian-majority cities such as in Mitrovica and others, leaving an absolute majority Serb population in the northern cities. Other ethnic groups include Bosniaks, Gorani, Romani and others.
The following table shows ethnic composition of these municipalities based on the estimates:
|Novo Brdo/Artanë||3,112||46.4||3,524||52.4||83||1.2||6,729||2011 Census|
|North Mitrovica||22,530||76.6||4,900||16.6||2,000||6.8||29,430||Estimate (OSCE)|
|Zubin Potok||13,900||93.3||1,000||6.7||14,900||Estimate (OSCE)|
|Community of Serb municipalities||91,161||80.9||17,649||15.7||3,829||3.4||112,639|
Criticisms in the Albanian community
The Brussels agreement between Belgrade and Pristina was criticized by representatives of Albanians in south Serbia as they believe that the Brussels agreement gives Serbs in Kosovo autonomy, and thus warrants a similar level of autonomy for the municipalities in Serbia proper which have an Albanian majority. The Albanian party Vetëvendosje! has also staged violent protests against the agreement, as they believe that an autonomous Serb region within Kosovo would cripple the country's sovereignty and cement ethnic partition. Some in Albanian community complained that in return for the dismantling of the parallel institutions and participation of Serbs in elections the agreement leading to the establishment of the Association opened the space for the legally sanctioned Serbia's interference in local governance and therefore undermined sovereignty. Many argued that they have already made numerous overgenerous concessions in exchange for initial international recognitions.
Criticisms in the Serbian community
The Brussels agreement has been criticized by the Democratic Party of Serbia which argued that it makes no mention of Serbia or its Constitution and laws, or UN Security Council Resolution 1244, while it does mention the Kosovo Constitution and laws, and therefore demanded a referendum on it. The Serbian Orthodox Church has called the agreement "a complete withdrawal of Serbia's institutions from the territory of its southern province and setting up limited autonomy of the Serb community in the area to the north of the Ibar bridge in Mitrovica within Hashim Thaçi's establishment". Serbs in Northern Kosovo have also rallied against the agreement, and in support of the Assembly's continued rule in the Serb-majority municipalities. They feared that it represent Serbian retreat from the region and will lead to decreased levels of personal incomes and lower standards in terms of quality of public services once they are transferred from Serbian to the Kosovo system.
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