Home Finance Serbia must choose EU or Russia, rights of Albanians in the south must be addressed – EURACTIV.com

Serbia must choose EU or Russia, rights of Albanians in the south must be addressed – EURACTIV.com

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If Serbia does not want to join the EU and prefers to maintain relations with Russia, the EU should not force it, said MEP and European Parliament rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von Cramon in an interview with Euractiv, also addressing erasure. of Albanians from the civil registers of southern Serbia.

In 2020, release. Euractiv partner al was the first media outlet to publish the findings of researcher Flora Ferati Sachsenmeir, who discovered that ethnic Albanians were being systematically and illegally removed from the Serbian civil register.

The final report of his work, published recently, found that more than 6,000 ethnic Albanians had had their addresses passivated in the southern regions of Serbia, rendering them stateless and unable to buy or sell property, have access to education or health care, to vote or to exercise other fundamental rights. .

Ferati’s research found that the ethnic Albanian population in some areas has declined by more than 70%.

The matter has now found its way to Brussels, despite the Commission having known about it for years, and is being pushed to be included in Serbia’s EU accession negotiations, amid growing interest for EU membership appears to be decreasing.

“If Serbia does not want to join the EU, we should not force it to do so, as it has chosen. Maybe they want to stay outside and see how all the other Western Balkan states will join the EU. It’s their decision,” von Cramon said.

“Maybe they want to stay outside and see how all the other Western Balkan countries will join the EU. It’s their decision. But to enter into force and make attractive offers, why is Serbia really interested in working with Russia? I don’t know,” she said.

The MEP explained that although Serbia has supported Ukraine by delivering weapons and offering humanitarian aid, its rhetoric on the Kosovo-Serbia issue suggests otherwise.

“But when it comes to Kosovo, I think it’s time now to overcome this old, very, very aggressive rhetoric, this terrible nationalist approach. With this, we cannot work together within the European Union, we cannot accept a country that still lives in the past and still lives with these old narratives,” she explained.

Von Cramon said she previously thought Serbia had an interest in joining the EU and becoming an active player in the accession process, but recent events, including deteriorating relations with Kosovo, have cast doubts on this point.

“But we have to see, and we have to assess that the last month is not going in this direction. And after a while maybe we should take a break,” she told Euractiv.

Regarding the ongoing dialogue process which was recently stalled due to growing tensions in northern Kosovo, von Cramon said it was disappointing because there was much hope about recent agreements which would have brought the situation closer to the ultimate goal of the final recognition of Kosovo.

“A step before final recognition which would have allowed Kosovo to apply to all international institutions, mutual recognition of identity cards and secondary school diplomas… but this agreement has not been implemented,” she declared.

“I don’t want to call it a failure, but it didn’t create new momentum. It’s hard to imagine that we are on the verge of recognition,” added von Cramon.

Asked about criticism that the EU is not treating Kosovo fairly, particularly recent EU sanctions against Pristina, von Cramon sees the situation as more nuanced.

“But what I hear is still a general feeling that we are not treating Serbia on an equal footing with Kosovo. And I think when it comes to domestic issues, yes, I agree. I think we have to be much tougher in the event of non-implementation of reforms, internal reforms; Serbia did nothing,” she said.

Von Cramon says Serbia’s treatment of journalists, media, rule of law and other issues needs more work, but insists EU was not wrong in its approach of the complex situation between Kosovo and Serbia.

“We need to be much more frank. But especially when it comes to dialogue and every step, I don’t think the EU has made any significant mistakes.”

She added that the EU has made great efforts, but there is a lack of political will on both sides and recent escalations have not helped matters.

“But the latest escalation, particularly in the north, was actually very predictable. And everyone warned Prime Minister Kurti not to move forward. And he did it anyway.

“If you don’t want to cooperate, regardless of the advice of people and your friends, then yes, you face criticism. It’s as simple as that,” she said.

But the MEP added that there should be more criticism of Serbia, especially regarding its EU accession path.

Administrative cleansing of Albanians

Regarding the recently concluded research on the ethnic administrative cleansing of Albanians in southern Serbian municipalities, von Cramon said it was too late to include this topic in the ongoing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, supported by the EU, but that it could be included in the European negotiations in Belgrade.

“I think it is now far too late… From what I understand, this cannot be included in the dialogue, but it should definitely be placed at the top of the agenda of the negotiations of membership,” she said.

According to Sachsenmeir’s research and testimonies collected from residents, the authorities, under cover of the residence law, claimed to send people to check residences.

These envoys would report that residents could not be found at their address and a notification would be sent to the Election Commission. Entire families are then deleted the electoral lists. In the absence of a written decision, there is no avenue of appeal.

“We can now put pressure on the Commission. Until now we only had fragments, a few data here and there and anecdotal evidence from field and international visits… We now have very detailed information on how the Serbian government discriminated very systematic the Albanian minorities,” she said.

This, she said, shows that this issue must be included in the next round of accession negotiations and in the rule of law group.

“This is a classic case of minority rights, anti-discrimination, respect for all ethnic groups in the country, etc. This is what we and some of my colleagues will remind the Commission and the Member States,” explained von Cramon.

As for his visits to the Presevo Valley, von Cramon explained that there was no investment, neither local nor foreign, which is in stark contrast to the rest of Serbia which has been developed.

“You won’t find this kind of investment in the South,” she said, noting that it appears deliberate that the region is starved of development and opportunity.

The MEP also explained that, although in the past there was a large and clear Albanian majority, “it is now increasingly difficult for Albanian minorities to retain their inhabitants in the region.”

This, she explained, is due to the process of passivation, which removes citizenship, thereby significantly limiting rights.

“We see that there are many economic, social and political disparities. People feel rather disconnected from the center; rather, they feel disconnected from financial resources and work opportunities,” she said.

As for the root of the problem, von Cramon explained that after the breakup of Kosovo, Serbs in the north of the country were part of the political settlement but no attention was paid to Albanians in southern Serbia.

“The Serbs of northern Kosovo are a group of great political importance. We should do the same towards the Albanian minority in Serbia, but no one has done it,” she said.

“It is up to us to put more pressure on the Serbian government,” concluded the MEP.

As for Serbia’s response to the situation, von Cramon explained that the official line is that these individuals do not live here and that this is a regular process undertaken by all citizens.

But the data shows otherwise, and it is a topic that the MEP will “definitely raise” with the authorities during his next visit to Belgrade.

(Alice Taylor | Euractiv.com)

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