Nationalists Protest Kosovo PM’s Concessions on North

Opposition MPs interrupted Prime Minister Hashim Thaci on Thursday – angered by his decision to permit local authorities in the Serb-run north to form an ‘association’.Liburn Aliu and Visar Ymeri, MPs from the opposition nationalist Self-Determination Movement, went up to podium of parliament holding a banner as Prime Minister Thaci started his speech.

“Hashim’s Kosovo,” the banner read, showing a map of Kosovo divided into Albanian and Serbian controlled territories.

The movement accused the Prime Minister of conceding autonomy to the northern Serb-run part of the country without having a democratic mandate to do so.

The party said that allowing the establishment of a special association of Serbian municipalities in the north will trigger similar demands elsewhere.

“Claims that will arose out of this association won’t stop at municipalities in the north but will include those in the south of the country as well,” the Self-Determination Movement said.

Thaci announced the establishment of an Association of the Serbian Municipalities this week following talks with his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic, on ways to deal with the north of Kosovo, where local authorities have long ignored the Kosovo government.

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

In a special press conference held after the parliamentary session Thaci tried to minimise the significance of the concession, underlining that “the Association won’t have legislative powers”.

The Prime Minister insisted that he had not offered autonomy or special status for the north, saying “those [ideas] remain unrealizable dreams”.

While the Kosovo government insists that the plan offers a route towards the integration of the Serb-run north, the Serbian Prime Minister, Dacic, on Thursday said he still believed the partition of Kosovo would be “the best solution”, though he admitted the idea had no international backing.

“They won’t let me talk either about partition or separation any longer, although I still believe it is the best and only solution – in other words, the only one acceptable both for Serbs and Albanians,” Dacic said.

More clarity on an eventual solution to the problem of Serbian-financed “parallel institutions” in the north of Kosovo is expected to come out of the meeting between Thaci and Dacic on March 4 hosted by the EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton.

The EU-mediated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia was launched in March 2011, and since last autumn has been led by the prime ministers of both parties.

The dialogue is designed to normalize relations between both parties as they seek closer integration into the EU.

The Self-Determination Movement opposes the dialogue, saying it should not develop without mutual recognition by both parties.

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