Growing gap between Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs opposing deal with Pristina

Association of Serbian Municipalities of Kosovo ready to establish new assembly outside Kosovo law · Political battle now in Serbian Constitutional Court after two parties file request · Belgrade says that the agreement with Kosovo will be implemented, local elections will be held in October

Some Kosovo Serbs are still determined not to accept that nominal control of north of Kosovo is transfered to Pristina authorities. Vice-president of the Association of Serbian Municipalities of Kosovo Marko Jakšić said on Monday that Kosovo Serbs intend to establish a new provincial assembly in Kosovo. The new assembly would be created under Serbian law, and not under Kosovo law. The decision, Jaksic said, was in full agreement with the Constitution of Serbia.

The move goes against the deal that was struck between the governments of Kosovo and Serbia last month. According to that agreement, Belgrade accepts that Serb majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo establish a new autonomous region within Albanian majority Kosovo and under Kosovar legislation. The deal allows Serbia to continue funding Kosovo Serb municipalities, who will be responsible for economic, educational and health issues. Belgrade says the deal in now way implies the recognition of Kosovo independence.

But Jaksic feels that the deal is unacceptable. In fact, a couple of weeks ago the Serbian presidency acknowledged that talks on this issue with Kosovo Serbs were difficult. It is worth to mention that, last year, Serbian majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo organized an unofficial referendum. Local residents has to anser if they wanted their municipalities to accept Kosovo rule. With a turnout of 75%, Kosovo Serbs overwhelmingly rejected it.

A political battle that reaches Belgrade

Jaksic is an MP belonging to the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS, Serbian acronym). DSS is firmly against Belgrade-Pristina deal. The party has filed a request against the agreement to the Constitutional Court of Serbia (CC). The CC must now decide whether the deal goes against the Serbian Constitution. The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) has also filed a request to the CC.

DSS and SRS have been the strongest partes in the north of Kosovo in most recent times. Nevertheless, none of them are currently part of the Serbian government, which is made up of a coalition led by president Tomislav Nikolic's Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and prime minister Ivica Dacic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). Thus, in this case party politics are intertwined with the issue of Kosovo Serbs.

Dacic says implementation of the agreement to start

Even if Kosovo Serbs oppose the move, Dacid announced yesterday that the Serbian government was ready to implement the Belgrade-Pristina deal. Dacic insisted that in no way it can be said that the agreement implies the Serbian recognition of Kosovo independence.

Local elections to be held in the north of Kosovo next October are set to become a litmus test for the deal. After the election, the new Kosovo Serb autonomous region under Kosovo law should be created. But local leaders opposing the deal with Pristina could call a boycott. If successful, the move would prove to what extent Kosovo Serbs reject an agreement with Albanian majority Kosovo.

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