Police charge towards protesters during a demonstration by the Self-Determination party in Pristina on 22nd of October 2012
On Monday, the Kosovar nationalist party, Vetevendosje! [Self-Determination!] held a demonstration in front of the government headquarters in Pristina to protest against the resumption of talks between Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels. The demonstrators, including several parliamentarians, tried to storm the building but were violently pushed back by police.
On Friday, the Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and his Serb counterpart Ivica Dacic met in Brussels under the auspices of the European Union. Discussions between the two parties began in February 2011, but this was the first meeting since the talks were suspended in spring. Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, says it wants to “normalise” relations with its neighbour. The EU and NATO want the two countries to establish closer ties as part of their membership application to the two regional bodies.
Although Thaci holds a parliamentary majority, he still needs to deal with active opposition from Self-Determination!, the country’s third largest political party with 14 parliamentarians in the 120-seat assembly. The nationalist party took part in a demonstration on Monday against the re-launch of the talks. The protest was quashed by the police. 23 people, including 18 police officers, were injured. 63 demonstrators were also arrested.
Video of the demonstration on Monday circulated by the Self-Determination party.
For Visar Ymeri, the head of the Self-Determination! parliamentary group, “it’s clear the negotiations will lead to the creating of an autonomous Serb region in the north of Kosovo. This will allow Serbs to move around more easily in Kosovo, and worsen our economic situation.” Visar Ymeri adds that the unemployment rate in Kosovo is 45 percent. His views highlight one of the major sticking points of the discussions: the status of North Kosovo, which has a large Serbian community. The situation is a sensitive issue in Kosovo, especially in the divided town of Mitrovica.
Hashim Thaci has called on Self-Determination! to join the dialogue, but the party has refused.
Video of the demonstration on Tuesday morning circulated by the Self-Determination party.
"What bothers me most is that the government (...) doesn't have the legitimacy to open these discussions"
Shkelzen Gashi works for different education NGOs in Pristina. He took park in the demonstrations against the talks on Monday, but he is not affiliated with the Self-Determination party.
I am not completely against negotiations with Serbia, as there are many things to discuss with them. I am referring to the "disappearance of people" and the victims of war, for example.
However, I don’t think the current government is authorised to hold these discussions: Hashim Thaci won the elections in 2010, but all international bodies denounced electoral frauds. Therefore, he has no legitimacy as prime minister. Furthermore, he committed very serious crimes during the war of independence, and he is totally corrupt. Now, when you are corrupt and are accused of war crimes, you could be blackmailed.
"Re-establishing links with Serbia is inevitable, but the lines of discussion are very blurred"
Nérimane Kamberi is a professor of French and a journalist in Pristina.
For me, re-establishing links with Serbia is inevitable. Already, there is a lot of international pressure, and it’s clear that our government wants to be seen as goody two-shoes in the eyes of the European Union and the United States. Furthermore, our country is marred by very bad corruption; we lack a democratic base, and we need Europe to clean up our political system. However, the lines of discussion for the talks are very blurred. I am also scared that we will give up the north of the country to Serbia.
"These images of police violence shocked people, because they remind us of the time when we were part of Serbia"
For me, Self-Determination! is not a violent party. Rather, it is a party that annoys, precisely because it is sounding the alarm about the risk of giving away the north of the country.
The images of police violence like the ones we saw on Monday shocked people, because they remind us of the time when we were part of Serbia, and of police violence under [former Serbian president Slobodan] Milosevic. There are a lot of former UCK fighters [editor’s note: the former Kosovar Independence Army] in the police. It is difficult to watch them hit their own citizens.