At each point and each agreement, it was Serbia that accepted bit-by-bit accepted the supreme authority of the Constitution of Kosovo in the territory of the Republic of Kosovo
OP-ED / By Petrit Selimi*
Ahtisaari’s Plan was a historic compromise. Given that we never managed to fully implement it in all municipalities with Serbian majority, we were not forced to deal with the noble and generous paragraphs that guarantee substantial municipal autonomy and the right to establish inter-municipal associations with non-executive powers and with direct links with Serbia. It is time to go back to the original manuscript that brought independence.
Local economic development. Urban planning. Rural planning. Land use and real estate development. Building regulations and standards. Environmental protection. Provision of public services such as water, sewage, local transport, local roads, waste management. First aid. Infant education. Primary education. Secondary education. Higher education.
Recruitment of professors and administration. Licensing of higher education. Primary health care. Secondary health care. Licensing of health institutions. Health insurance and health services. Retirement homes. Orphanages. Public housing. Public health. Licensing of private services and facilities of entertainment, culture, food, catering, street vendors, shopping, roads, public parks, taxis, public transport. Naming of all streets, avenues and all public spaces.
Maintenance of all public spaces. Tourism. Cultural activities. Full powers in all cultural matters, including the promotion and protection of Serbian language and heritage and support for religious cults. The right to appoint directors of police stations. Cadastral data. Civil registers. Voter registration. Distribution of social assistance. Protection of the mountains. And all other rights that are not reserved exclusively for the central state powers.
There are the rights of the Serbian municipalities according to Ahtisaari. A lot of things. While the fundamental municipal authority is preserved in basic bodies such as: bodies elected by votes, municipal budgeting and approval of executive acts, in all other areas, municipalities can cooperate by creating associations of municipalities. Whenever and however they please. These associations can be financed by Serbia, too, and with expert staff employed by Serbia.
So writes Ahtisaari and so says our Constitution. The Constitution was a compromise. An agreement. A handshake.
You can even call it a covenant if you fancy a more archaic discourse. Between the absolute majority of the people of Kosovo represented by the major Kosovar parties and the Contact Group (minus Russia). All agreed to this agreement in 2008 – but a small group at the time around a movement, “Vetëvendosje” (“Self-determination”). You remember that Vetëvendosje (VV) labeled “cows” those who were negotiating. They even called them traitors. They wanted negotiators “dead or alive” in their posters. Vetevendosje movement was so categorically against Ahtisaari that brought the people to the streets in violent protests. The violence by Romanian policemen caused the death of two citizens in protests against Ahtisaari. Westerners but I believe the families also believe that the two victims were in vain. Unnecessary.
However, it would be a faithful and undeniable interpretation to say that this constitution was accepted by an absolute majority of the citizens of Kosovo when it was announced in the form of the Declaration of Independence.
Ahtisaarian Constitution accepted as our internal civil contract, has deliberately aimed at decentralization of power – or call it the devolution of central power – or call it municipal autonomy – or call it the principle of subsidiary – because this has been considered as the compromise that should be made with the most powerful states in the world because (again, a quote from Ahtisaari) “the legitimate concerns of Kosovo Serbs and other minority communities had to be addressed”.
Ahtisaari was the only way to integrate the northern part of Kosovo and to prevent the physical separation of a part of territory of Kosovo. It was the only way to prevent the creation of a super-region which would have parallel powers and would challenge the central authorities in areas of sovereignty as ensuring of law and order, adoption of laws, justice, defense forces, external borders. The northern part of Kosovo is not “Republika Srpska” because Ahtisaari has not allowed for such a direction. Those who call solutions that are described in the Ahtisaari Plan as the creation of a “Republika Srpska” belong to three categories: they are either entirely ignorant of legal frameworks of Dayton and Ahtisaari, or they are opportunists who understand better the situation but who deliberately drum up nationalism or are insincere in their analyses.
There has not been a single point so far in the dialogue with Serbia, after the opinion by the ICJ and the UN General Assembly Resolution in 2010 – no single point that has challenged or that has not been in conformity with the Ahtisaari Plan.
The opposite is where the truth lies. At each point and each agreement, it was Serbia that accepted bit-by-bit the supreme authority of the Constitution of Kosovo in the territory of the Republic of Kosovo. In the cadastral agreement the Supreme Court of Kosovo is accepted as the final authority. In the agreement on vehicle registration/license plates the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kosovo is accepted as the sole authority issuing plates. In the agreement for regional representation it is accepted that Kosovo will have equal rights in the regional bodies. In the customs agreement it is accepted that Kosovo is a single legal and customs zone. In the IBM Agreement it is accepted that only Kosovo has the right to border control and that all customized good to be taxed with Kosovo laws. That there are borders between Kosovo and Serbia. In the agreement for the opening of the officers it is accepted that diplomats should be exchanged with Kosovo. In future agreements parallel structures will cease to exist and the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Kosovo will be in the northern part of Mitrovica. Elections will be held on the basis of the Electoral Code and the rules of the CEC of Kosovo. Local power will be the same as in Shterpce.Intimidation of Kosovars that the path of dialogue is bringing a “Republika Srpska” is not believed even by the Kosovars themselves. Polls show that the vast majority of Kosovars prefer dialogue as the best way to resolve the situation in the summer because this route is delivering results.
The alternative is unclear. A mix of militant nationalism, romantic naivety and irrational analysis of the situation.
If we would opt to be a bit pathetic we would say that the alternative to the present dialogue with Serbia would be a breach of the covenant given in 2008 to main partners of Albanians.
* The author is the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo