Still between the frontlines: Presevo Valley

Serbia held joint parliamentary, presidential and local elections on Sunday, May 6, 2012 sending ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolić and incumbent President Boris Tadić to a presidential election run-off on 20...

Serbia held joint parliamentary, presidential and local elections on Sunday, May 6, 2012 sending ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolić and incumbent President Boris Tadić to a presidential election run-off on 20 May.  The Progressive Party of Nikolić and the coalition led by Tadić’s Democratic Party are also neck-to-neck in the parliamentary election, held the yesterday.
Kosovo/Serbia – by Vedat Xhymshiti
Monday, May 7, 2012 | The IndependenTNewsweeK |

Serbian paramilitary gendarmerie forces, conducting patrol, 
in neutral zone between Kosovo-Serbia crossings, in south-
eastern Kosovo border. (Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)

Expected violence eruption in Kosovo during the Serbian state elections didn’t happen. Serbian military official warned that the violence might break out in Kosovo as Serbia went to the polls Sunday. Three days ahead the Serbian presidential elections, violence ‘erupted’ as Serbian paramilitary state forces has raid the whole region of Bujanoc, violently arresting 8 ethnic Albanians, traumatizing their family members such as wife’s and children.
Residents of Kosovo were allowed to vote in Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections; however, Serbian Military Intelligence Agency Director Dragan Vladisavljevic said there is a threat of violence in Kosovo during the elections because of increasing inter-ethnic tensions, B92 reported.
While, in Presevo Valley, which according to Serbs is the Southern Serbia, as well as according to ethnic Albanians, is eastern Kosovo, was a city in calm, but in a highly pressured fear. Last Friday, just three days ahead to the Serbian state election Serbian Gendarmerie, arrested and beat brutally 8 ethnic Albanians, charging them with terrorism activity allegations.
The families are deadly scared by the additional presence of the Serbian Para-Military troops in the Valley. Serbian Ultra-nationalist hardliner politician Ivica Dacic, (SPS) state interior minister, who’s presidential candidacy is in a high row, ever since after the end of Yugoslavia which lasted with Kosovo war 1998 – 1999, but ethnic Albanian family members, have arguments that the era of Milosevic is still alive, since its “puppies’ as they claim are still alive ruling Serbia.
“We don’t care who is ruling this country, we just need freedom, our human rights to be defended and live our life as normal citizens” said father of Elhami Saliu one of 8 ethnic Albanians who’s been arrested on Friday.
Additionally blaming Dutch politician Peter Feith, who is currently head of ICO (International Civilian Office) in Kosovo, which was charged to set up the ‘Konçul Agreement’ between ethnic Albanians armed ‘self-defense’ groups and Serbian state security forces.
In 2001 the international community – NATO, the U.S. and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in particular – working in close cooperation with Serbia’s authorities, successfully negotiated an end to an armed Albanian insurgency in the valley (the Konçul Agreement). Since then substantial donor and Serbian government investment has created noticeable albeit slow progress, including the formation of multi-ethnic local governments, joint Albanian-Serb police patrols and improvements in the Albanian-language media.
Importantly, for the first time since 2000 Albanians participated in national politics, electing a representative to Serbia’s parliament in the January 2007 elections.
“Nevertheless, education reform and integration of Albanians into the judiciary and other public organs remain disappointing” said ICG (International Crisis Group) in a report published back in 2007.
Most local Albanians feel peace has not delivered an end to tensions with Serb security forces or the promised prosperity. Serbs feel the Albanians are a disloyal, irredentist minority, which continues to flout Serbian sovereignty and endanger what has traditionally been an economically important north-south trade route. In some instances Albanians, when exercising their newly found majority power against Serbs, fuel charges of reverse discrimination the ICG report says.
The Albanian-majority Presevo Valley in southern Serbia is one of the few conflicts that remained alive in the former Yugoslavia. Yet tensions linger, and a series of recent violent incidents demonstrated that the peace can still unravel. Serbia’s stalled reform process is preventing the political and economic changes that are needed to move forward on many critical issues in the area, and there is a general sense among local Albanians that peace has not delivered what it promised: an end to tensions with Serb security forces and prosperity.

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