“Srpska Republic exists and functions, formalization alone has not been achieved”

“Srpska Republic exists and functions, formalization alone has not been achieved”

Analysts in Kosovo believe that authorities in Pristina have not been able to control the entire territory of the Republic. They even assess that Serbia’s laws are applied in that part of the Republic where Serb majority dominates.

Avni Zogiani is a known columnist in Kosovo. In an interview in Pristina with IBNA journalist, Tinka Kurti, Mr. Zogiani criticizes the work of the government. He also comments on the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, where he assesses that Serbia has entered into talks with concrete demands, while Kosovo without any demands.

Below you will read the exclusive interview of Mr. Zogiani, chairman of the Organization for Democracy, Anticorruption and Dignity-Rise!, a non profit organization which in the past 8 years has been considered as the main civil society organization in Kosovo.

Interviewed by Tinka Kurti

How do you assess the process of dialogue with Serbia? Was it necessary for Kosovo to enter these negotiations and if yes, why?

Kosovo has entered these negotiations without any demands, while the demands toward it have been numerous and painful. Pristina has not objected Serbs and Serbia at any moment, although each agreement that has been reached has threatened the authority of Kosovo in a part of its territory. Pristina has not raised its voice when the positioning of Serb and Serbia have defied the state of Kosovo. EU positioning toward Kosovo has not changed either, a positioning which mainly consists on full negligence of the needs of Kosovo in the relations between Pristina and Belgrade. Up until today, Kosovo has been satisfied with good words, but it has offered a lot without receiving back anything concrete. Above all, it’s not the integration of Serbs that it’s happening with these agreements, but the confirmation of divisions. Serbs who were elected as leaders of communes of Serb majority have denied the state of Kosovo and for this, they have been motivated by the prime minister of Serbia, Ivica Dacic. Kosovo is bewildered in relation to what’s happening. There’s a prime minister who plays more of a role of a “spin doctor” in favor of EU and Serbia, rather than a prime minister who should care about what Kosovo must benefit as a state, as a result of what he’s showing in this process of negotiations. In a situation when the prime minister and his family are becoming multi millionaires from their gains in the public sector, our prime minister is not able to lay out demands toward an organism such as the European Union, whose mission is the rule of law in Kosovo. Here we have to deal with the saying “one hand washes the other”. Our prime minister is totally free to do business and defend close interests and in exchange of his impunity, he offers everything he’s demanded in the negotiating process. It’s this simple, but also this unscrupulous by both sides.

How do you see the implementation of April 19 agreement and the process of the integration of the Serbs of the north?

Serbs have ruined the essence of every product of the negotiations with Kosovo, but they have always held on to and implemented what they have wanted. Thus, today nobody can stop Serbs from selectively implementing these agreements, given that they are the only authority in the territories in question. They have constantly reconfirmed through declarations and decisions that they will build a legal, administrative and economic parallel territory and for this, they were given way by the agreements reached in Brussels.

There are rumors for the risk of a Srpska Republic. Do you see it that way?

Srpska Republic already exists and functions. The only thing that it hasn’t achieved is formalization, in other words, it hasn’t yet set up the Assembly, leadership and other leading institutions. Srpska Republic can be seen in each of the Serb communes in Kosovo.

Let us move on to another acute issue, corruption. Government and the President say that they have set up many mechanisms to fight this phenomenon. Do you see progress?

The president of Kosovo and the prime minister have started to resemble to singers of the turbo-folk music. They sing the song that the people like. More or less like that song “Mitrovica will never separate”, while Mitrovica never united. Thus, we have to do with adventurers in politics whose words don’t weigh. They have also started to copy American politicians in the way they deliver their speeches through a prompter. But the difference is that their words don’t need to match to reality. They can say and claim anything in every domain and nobody is there to ask them any further, for example, to ask them what the state has done in the fight against corruption. I will give you an example. When the legislation on the prevention of illegal possession of assets was drafted, the government of Kosovo fought along with civil society, assisted by EU and US embassies in Kosovo, and managed to pass that version of the bill which guaranteed that there would not be a fight against corruption. The burden of proof for the origin of assets was transferred to the state, while it related the scrutiny of assets with potential criminal proceedings against a senior official. This basically exempted the entire political class from undergoing scrutiny to their wealth. I think that such practice was followed only in Kosovo.

The government has sent the 2014 budget for voting in parliament, where fresh attempts are being made to privatize Post Telecom of Kosovo (PTK). How do you see this process? Have there been reactions in your organization over this privatization?

As an organization and I, personally, have been against the privatization in the circumstances that Kosovo was going through. Telecommunication is an entirely unregulated domain and privatization would take away many public assets by leaving nothing to society, but impoverishment and misery. This process continued for a decade without ever assessing its effect. Now, the former chairman of the Board of the Agency for Privatization, Blerim Rexha says that there must be an analysis of what happened with privatization up until now. Meanwhile, the American member of the Board abandoned the board as a sign of protest against the positioning of Blerim Rexhaj. A few days later the government forced Mr. Rexhaj to resign. Less than a week from his resignation, an American company signed an agreement with the Serb government on Trepçe. This company signed the agreement with the claim that it had received assurances from the State Department, according to which, following the negotiations with Brussels, it could sign an agreement with Serbia for a company which was considered to be under Kosovo’s jurisdiction. This has been the destiny of all privatizations in Kosovo. Kosovars have never taken decisions on the most important privatizations. This, either because there has not been integrity toward officials that favored certain interests that damaged Kosovo, or they have been clueless and they haven’t dared to object. PTK’s case is not very different. We know that parliament has been constantly against this, because it’s clear that PTK is being privatized in order to pay debts incurred by our government under the pressure of international consultants. In decisive moments there have been arbitrary interventions of the foreign factor in Pristina to force Parliament to change its positioning and this has sometimes taken place even within a day. But today, privatization of PTK has become urgent, given that by capturing the state, this company has been left under the mercy of competitive companies. Senior officials of the party in power are paid by PTK’s competitors and today the government is doing everything to reduce this company to an uncompetitive level for the benefit of competitors. This is why I think that its sale can be the only way out for the most profiting company in Kosovo.

Let us talk about the local government elections held a few weeks ago. In your opinion, what are the main factors that brought these results in the elections and how do you think that they will be reflected in next year’s parliamentary elections?

I believe that there’s a psychological moment on the Kosovar voter who has refused what has happened until now. Many things have been clear for a long time, but in my experience, I think that the public needs a certain period of time to react and in general, it reacts when it’s not expected. The largest party in the country, PDK (Democratic Party of Kosovo), demonstrated a conviction for continuity in these elections, but we saw what happened. Turkish prime minister, Erdogan was the only one who managed to save PDK from total collapse through a visit to Prizren. Nevertheless, it will be difficult to predict what will happen in the general elections. I think that there will soon be important changes in Kosovo. It’s very likely for European Mission for the Rule of Law to be finally free to act and if this happens, there are sufficient facts to break this political class which up until today has sunk Kosovo into chaos and poverty as a result of corruption. This now seems like a dream, but if public pressure mounts, Kosovo may change from next year when general elections are set to take place. /ibna/