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17th Oct 2021

Albanians in Serbia call for more rights, cite EU model

Ethnic Albanian leaders in Serbia have declared a new structure on the model of an EU-brokered deal for Serbs in Kosovo.

They unveiled the Association of Albanian Municipalities (AAM) at a meeting in Presevo, a town in southern Serbia, on Saturday (12 September), Balkans news agency DTT-Net reports.

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  • Serbia mural: Dacic all but threatened the use of force to stop the Presevo project (Photo: Dmitry Kuzmin)

Riza Halimi, an Albanian MP in the Serb parliament, told press they want "the same rights as the Serbs in Kosovo" based "on the model … mediated by the EU between Belgrade and Pristina".

He was referring to a deal, signed in Brussels last month, giving greater autonomy, but under Kosovo law, to Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.

About 100,000 ethnic Serbs live in mostly north Kosovo.

More than 50,000 Albanians also live in the municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja in south Serbia in the patchwork of ethnic enclaves created by the 1990s wars.

For his part, Ivica Dacic, Serbia's nationalist foreign minister, on Friday all-but threatened use of force to stop the AAM project.

"I warn them not to make parallels with the ZSO in Kosovo [the Serb municipalities' structure] and not to play with fire … Serbia is much stronger today than it was during the last 20 to 30 years", he said.

Speaking recently to EUobserver, Kosovo’s deputy PM Hashim Thaci also said the Kosovo model shouldn't be replicated in Serbia or in Macedonia, which is home to 2 million Albanians.

"Albanians in Macedonia and in Serbia have their own legitimate representatives in the legislatures of their respective countries, so there's no connection between the tools used in Kosovo and the tools at the disposal of native Albanians in neighbouring states", he told this website.

He said the post-war Ohrid Agreement in Macedonia gives Albanians "stronger" rights than Serbs got in Kosovo.

He added that the EU-brokered deal is "a step toward Serbia fully recognising" Kosovo and that it stops the emergence of a new Republika Srpska-type entity, referring to the Serb part of the Bosnian federation.

Some local Albanian leaders in Macedonia have also called for greater autonomy in the wake of the EU-brokered ZSO accord.

Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the main Albanian political party in Macedonia, the DUI, is part of a coalition government led by Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski, and hasn't joined the appeal.

He's instead preparing for snap elections in April, called after wire-tap revelations of Gruevski corruption and abuse of power.

But allegations, which emerged last week, that Ahmeti is also guilty of taking bribes threaten to destabilise the situation.

The allegations - that he took money from Magyar Telekom, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, some 10 years ago, to keep competitors out of Macedonia - came out in witness testimony in a US hearing in a case under the auspices of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Analysts say if Ahmeti feels threatened he could pull out of the coalition, bringing elections forward, and stake his future on Albanian rights instead.

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