Saturday, February 16, 2008

B92: Cabinet ministers travel to Kosovo tomorrow

BELGRADE, KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Deputy Prime Minister Božidar Đelić, cabinet ministers and their assistants will be in Kosovo Sunday.

The Serbian Orthodox heritage in Kosovo is protected by NATO (Beta, archive)
The Serbian Orthodox heritage in Kosovo is protected by NATO (Beta, archive)

The Serbian state officials will be in the province as its ethnic Albanian leadership announces its secession, and unilaterally declares Kosovo's independence, reports say.

Serbia is set to reject this decision as illegal and intends to counter it with its Action Plan.

Beta news agency today says that the ministers will be joined by a number of Serbian lawmakers, and representatives from the Serb parties in Montenegro.

Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardžić confirmed that he and his ministry's state secretary, Dušan Proroković, will hold a news conference in Kosovska Mitrovica at 13:00 CET Sunday.

And while Samardžić and a number of others will be in the Serb-inhabited north of the province, Đelić and Education Minister Zoran Lončar will travel to the most isolated Serb enclave of Štrpce.

Minister for Energy and Mining Aleksandar Popović will be in Ranilug, while Infrastructure Minister Velimir Ilić travels to Gračanica.

At the same time, the state secretary with his ministry, Brako Jocić, will visit Velika Hoča and Orahovac.

Minister for Trade and Services Predrag Bubalo travels to Osojane, near Istok, Minister of Religion Radomir Naumov will be in Goraždevac, while MUP's state secretary, Mirjana Orašanin, will visit Novo Brdo.

Their visit, apart from affirming Belgrade's rejection of Kosovo's independence, is a show of support to the province's Serbs, who, outside the northern areas where they are a majority, live in isolated enclaves under NATO protection, where they in the past often came under attack from Kosovo's Albanians.

Serbia's Kosovo Action Plan, still off bounds for the general public, is said to contain measures that will strengthen Belgrade's institutional presence in the Serb-majority areas.

The Serbs' political leaders today called for calm and asked them not to fall victim of provocations, Beta reported.

The Democratic Party (DS) provincial board chairman and Serbian MP Goran Bogdanović said that "Serbs will remain in Kosovo, to guard their homes, their property and their holy places".

Belgrade will do all it can to cooperate with the international community and ensure safety for the Serb community in the province, Bogdanović added.

Serb National Council of Northern Kosovo and Metohija (SNV) President Milan Ivanović told his compatriots to "gather around our institutions, through which we will achieve our interests, and completely ignore the EU mission to Kosovo, which will be utterly illegal."

"We must stay together, there will be no destabilization of the security situation. I can say this in just one sentence: 'Stay here, this is our sky, this is our state of Serbia," Ivanović was quoted.

Meanwhile, Beta's journalists were in Kosovska Mitrovica and Gračanica, where the day today seems a typical Saturday, they said.

However, the residents of the two towns say they are worried about the announced unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence, scheduled for tomorrow, but add that they already experienced the same atmosphere once, in 1990.

What hurts Kosovo Serbs the most are announcements that some countries may move to recognize such independence proclamation, and their bitterness is directed toward the representatives of those countries in KFOR, UNMIK and OSCE, the agency says.

The Serbs also say they do not trust the ethnic Albanian leadership's messages that their safety will be ensured and that the violence against the province's Serbs that took place after 1999, particularly in 2004, forcing nearly 200,000 to flee their homes, will not happen again.

Instead, the Kosovo Serbs look to Belgrade, soaking up messages that their country will not leave them, and that this part of its territory will not be forsaken, at the same time rejecting any decisions taken by the assembly in Priština.

Official local assembly meetings in the last few days, which had massive attendance of citizens, held in Zvečan, Zubin Potok, Leposavić and Kosovska Mitrovica, sent out messages that Serbs will not move out, but will instead work together to defend their homes and their province.

Protests have also been scheduled in Kosovska Mitrovica, Gračanica, Štrpce and Ranilug.

But those Serbs that spoke to Beta saved the harshest words for those few of their own which are taking part in the province's temporary institutions, branding them "traitors".

There are also fears that the Albanians, using the euphoria after their leaders declare Kosovo's independence, might try to attack the so-called parallel institutions in the Serb areas, established in 1999, and financed from the state budget, that include healthcare and education institutions, and post offices.

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