The Financial Times, June 23, 2008
Kosovo Serbs to convene separate parliament
Serbian representatives elected in Kosovo will convene a separate parliament next Saturday in defiance of United Nations administrators and the European Union-backed Kosovo government.
The assembly in northern Mitrovica will bring together 43 members from Serb-run municipalities around the disputed Balkan territory, which Serbia claims as a province despite the Kosovo Albanian majority's western-backed secession.
This assembly will ... unify the work of local institutions ... and will represent all citizens in the province that consider Serbia to be their state,” said Slobodan Samardzic, minister for Kosovo in Serbia's outgoing government.
Serbia held elections for all levels of government on May 11, including in Serb parts of Kosovo. But UN administrators – in the face of Kosovo Albanian objections – said the municipal part of the voting was “illegal” in Kosovo. Mr Samardzic said Serb communities had "no intention to enter conflicts".
Serbs similarly formed their own assemblies in the early 1990s when Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina seceded from the former Yugoslavia. But the UN has ruled Kosovo for nine years, while around 16,000 Nato-led troops keep a lid on potential violence.
June 28, when the assembly is due to convene, is St Vitus Day in the Serb Orthodox calendar, the date of the epic Kosovo battle in 1389. Slobodan Milosevic, the late Yugoslav Serb leader, linked his rule to Serb ethnic grievances starting with a speech on the same day in 1989.
The ethnic Albanian-dominated parliament in Pristina declared independence on February 17 and since then adopted a pro-EU constitution that nominally went into force eight days ago.
The UN is left in an ambiguous position, with the Security Council stalled over Kosovo's status and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, so far unable to transfer power to the EU.
The Kosovo constitution, built around a western-backed “settlement package” for the territory, cedes final authority to an EU-led “civilian office” and allows autonomy for five Serb-majority northern municipalities.
Roughly 120,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo, among nearly 2m ethnic Albanians.
Mr Samardzic wants the assembly to replace his ministry's “co-ordination centres” as the link for Kosovo Serbs to Belgrade.
The nationalist bloc only wants to “counteract the formation of a pro-EU government in Belgrade”, said Rada Trajkovic, an enclave Serb leader.