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What does the draft statute of the Association of municipalities with a Serbian majority in Kosovo contain?
Opposition parties in Kosovo said they have received the draft statute of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities, drawn up by Western diplomats, and which has been kept under a veil of secrecy since October 21, when it was presented to the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia. Neither party made immediate comments about the content of the draft statute, which defines the role and responsibilities of the Association.
Its drafters in the introduction refer to international documents and the Constitution of Kosovo and respect for its independence, autonomy and territorial integrity.
The document states that the main goal is to create opportunities for the Serbian community to benefit from certain rights and municipal responsibilities, already included in the Constitution and other laws in force.
"The association, established with this statute provides a self-managing framework for the Serbian community within the current local self-government and will not have additional executive powers compared to its member municipalities. The framework includes support for the coordinated provision of services in certain areas, the possibility of financial support from Serbia and a direct communication channel for the Serbian community with the government of Kosovo through the Ministry of Local Government," the document states .
The association, among other things, will be committed to protecting the rights and interests of the Kosovo Serb community in accordance with the Constitution and will not replace, exclude, or reduce the rights and interests of other legal entities that represent the Kosovo Serb community. .
Likewise, the document states, the Association cannot in any way replace or damage the constitutional and legal relations between the central and local authorities in Kosovo.
This statute further regulates the responsibilities, scope, organization and functioning of the bodies and all other affairs of the Association and it will be subject to review of its constitutionality by the Constitutional Court before establishment.
No later than 45 days after the review by the Constitutional Court, the Association must meet to elect, among other things, the leadership of its assembly as well as the president and vice-president of the Association, which, as stated, can only be undone by a two-thirds vote of the delegates. his. It will also have a governing council that resembles a governing body.
The association will have its official symbols, which may consist of a flag and a coat of arms and may only be used alongside the state symbols of Kosovo.
The draft charter recognizes the right of the Association to cooperate with government agencies in Serbia in the form of providing finance and technical assistance, including equipment. This support from Serbia will be subject to supervision and audit by the central authorities.
Likewise, the document recognizes the right of the Association to establish relations and enter into cooperation agreements with other local and international associations of municipalities, local authorities, regions and other local self-government units in other countries, in accordance with the laws in force.
The association will manage the education and health institutions, which are financed directly by Serbia, while the mayors of the municipalities in the north of Kosovo will provide the Ministry of Internal Affairs with the list of candidates for the post of Regional Police Commander.
The first two years of the association's operation will be monitored by the European Union, which will continue to do this work even afterwards, unless the Association and the Government of Kosovo decide otherwise.
The draft statute also provides that any dispute between the Association and the Central Authorities that cannot be resolved through direct negotiation or other means will be handled by an arbitration commission.
The text also includes other details about the functioning and responsibilities of the Association, which may undergo changes during the negotiations, the continuation of which may be delayed due to the parliamentary elections of Serbia, which are held on December 17.
The draft charter proposal was submitted to the parties on October 21 by the American and European envoys. On October 26, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy and the institutions of the European Union met separately in Brussels with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti and the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, to discuss the way forward towards normalization, asking Kosovo to establish the Association, while Serbia, the de facto recognition of Kosovo.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said he was ready to sign the proposal, but accused Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of refusing to sign. Meanwhile, the Serbian president said that the proposal represents a good basis for further talks, but rejected any possibility of recognizing Kosovo's independence.
The issue of the Association is the Achilles heel in the process of negotiations for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
The parties in 2013 agreed on the establishment of the Association, while in 2015 they agreed on its principles. But, that same year, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo found that a large part of these principles are in conflict with the Constitution of Kosovo.
Serbia insists on its establishment, while Prishtina has long hesitated to establish the Association, which it sees as a threat to a 'Serbian Republic' like the one in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The establishment of the Association is an obligation included in the Brussels and Ohrid agreement reached earlier this year, which was intended to reduce tensions between the parties, which have since worsened, reaching a high point in late September after an attack on the Kosovo police by a group of armed Serbs, where a police officer was killed.
The attack prompted new Western efforts to accelerate the normalization of relations between the parties amid concerns about stability in the region./VOA