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Local Policies in Multiethnic Communities - Case Study: Obiliq/Obilić

KIPRED SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE MUNICIPALITY  

 The territory of the municipality of Obiliq spreads over 105 km2. It has a total of 21 settlements and an estimated population of 30,000 inhabitants. This figure is a very broad estimation, for the last census in Kosovo took place in 1981[1], and there were huge demographic changes that have occurred since then, especially before, during and after 1999.

In order to illustrate the proportion of these demographic shifts, it is enough to compare the recent estimated population with the one given by the results of the 1981 census. In 1981, 50% of the Obiliq’s population were Kosovo Albanians, 40% were Kosovo Serbs, and 10% did consist of other minorities (Roma, Bosniaks, etc.). The current estimation of ethnic structure indicates about 25,000 Kosovo Albanians, about 3,400 Kosovo Serbs, 550 Roma, 300 Ashkali, and 70 Bosniaks and others.

 

The average age stands at 24 years, whilst the life expectancy is shorter than in almost all other places in Kosovo – a logical consequence of tremendous pollution caused by the very old facilities of the Kosovo Energetic Corporation in the immediate neighborhood.

 

Age

Percentage [%]

0 – 14

34.4

15 – 65

60.2

> 65

5.4

Table 3. Population structure[2] by age

The largest part of the non-Albanian communities of the Obiliq municipality live in the villages of Babimoc/Babin Most, Milloshevë/Miloševo, Plemetin/Plemetina, Caravodicë /Crkvena Vodica, and in the Obiliq/Obilić town itself.

 

Obiliq is a relatively rich municipality in terms of rivers: it has three rivers, Llapi, Drenica, and Sitnica, and it also has a very well developed irrigation system from the river of Ibër/ Ibar. Due to the large quantities of lignite, Obiliq is the place where the main bulk of the Kosovo energetic potentials have been built. Thus, Obiliq is, on the one hand, one from the biggest centers of industry in Kosovo, and on the other, power plants Kosovo A, and Kosovo B, are the economic lifelines of the local population.

 

In terms of rule of law institutions, Obiliq is under the jurisdiction of the Prishtina/ Priština court, but regarding the policing it has its own independent municipal Police Station.

 

 

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

 

The Municipal Assembly comprises of 21 members,[3] elected in the November 2007 Municipal Elections. Currently, in the Municipal Assembly of Obiliq there are no Kosovo Serb representatives, whilst in the first assembly there were 7 Serb councilors, followed by 3 councilors after the second elections.

 

The Serbs of Obiliq have mainly refused to participate in the Kosovo institutions ever since the Declaration of Independence. Their reluctance is clearly illustrated by the fact that although 5 Serbian political parties have participated in the local elections of 2007, they all failed to meet the necessary quota foreseen by the law for entering the assembly.

 

The results of the 2007 elections are worth mentioning since they were one from the main reasons for the flaws in the consolidation of the Assembly bodies in early 2008. The Mayor of the Municipality of Obiliq, elected in the mayoral elections of 2007,[4] is Mr. Rexhep Kelani, from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). In spite of the fact that the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) has the largest number of councilors in the assembly, the mayor still comes from LDK, due to the coalition that LDK managed to ensure with the AAK. Nevertheless, the Obiliq Municipality did not have a clear victor, and it seems that it has not a sound coalition. Agreements are needed to ensure decision-making.

 

On the other hand, Obiliq is a small community where ‘everyone knows everyone,’ and family connections between members of the opposing parties quite often supersede the party lines. Thus, it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict how the functioning of the political alliances in the Municipal Assembly will develop. According to a number of interviews conducted, most of the votes of the assembly members can be easily ‘bought,’ and are often used as a means for employing family members.

 

There are also plenty of internal disputes in the parties themselves. For instance, it seems that the Mayor doesn’t have the full backing of the councilors coming from the LDK itself, mainly because of the differences in opinions with his predecessor, who, in turn, has become a deputy minister in the central government.

 

 

THE MUNICIPAL LEGISLATION 

 

The only official document of the Municipality of Obiliq available, several parts of which were related to the issue of the participation of communities in the local self governance, was the Statute of the Municipality.

 

The Statute of the Municipality of Obiliq

The Statute of the Municipality of Obiliq was adopted on September 2008, based upon the mandate provided to Kosovo’s municipalities by the Law on Local Self Government of Kosovo. There are numerous provisions in this Statute that are related to the issues that have to do with the Kosovo’s communities in the local governance.

Firstly, the Article 33 of the Statute determines the position of the Deputy Chairman for Communities. Further on, the Article 34 of this Statute provides for the creation of the two Permanent Committees by the Municipal Assembly of Obiliq, in accordance with the Law on Local Self Government. The number of the members of Assembly in each from the Committees is to be determined by the Municipal Assembly, and the Mayor of the Municipality proposes to the Municipal Assembly the members of these Committees that are not members of the Municipal Assembly.

 

The Committee of Communities is further defined in the Article 40. The members of the Committee of Communities are appointed by the Municipal Assembly from among the members of the Municipal Assembly as well as from the representatives of the minority communities. This Committee should have at least five, and at most nine members. The Committee of Communities consists of the representatives of all the minority communities living in the municipality (and each community has at least one representative).

 

Article 59, in the Chapter on the Municipal Mayor and the Municipal Administration, determines the position of the Deputy Mayor for the Communities. Based upon this Statute, the term of Deputy Mayor for the Communities of the Obiliq Municipality is the same as the term of the Mayor of the Municipality, and, upon the proposal of the Mayor, is appointed and dismissed by the Municipal Assembly, with the approval of the majority of its members. Deputy Mayor for Communities helps the Mayor with advices and guidance on the issues concerning the minority communities. When the position of the Deputy Mayor for Communities remains free, the Mayor appoints the new Deputy Mayor for Communities not later than 30 days since this post has remained free.

 

There is also Article 73, determining that the employment in the civil service is supervised by the Head of the Personnel, to ensure that the civil service should reflect the appropriate professional, gender and ethnic proportion.

 

Regarding the coherence and consistency between the Statute of the Municipality of Obiliq and the Law on Local Self Government, on the issues related to minority communities in the local self government, there are two of them noted. Both of them have to do with the position of the Deputy Mayor for Communities.

Firstly, there is lack of coherence between the above mentioned Statute and the Law, related to the procedures foreseen for the appointment and dismissal of the Deputy Mayor for Communities. Based on the Law on Local Self Government (Article 61.3) “The appointment and the dismissal of the Deputy Mayor for Communities shall be proposed by the Mayor and shall get approval of the majority of the municipal assembly members present and voting and the majority of the municipal assembly members present and voting belonging to the non-majority communities.” On the other hand, the Article 59.2 of the Statute of the Obiliq Municipality does not foresee the majority of the municipal assembly members present and voting belonging to the non-majority communities: This article says: “The appointment and the dismissal of the Deputy Mayor for the Communities is proposed by the Mayor, and should be approved by the majority of the municipal assembly members present.”

Secondly, the point 4 of the Article 59 of the Statute determines that: “When the post of the Deputy Mayor for Communities remains free, the action shall be the same as in the case of the Deputy Mayor of the Municipality, defined in the Article 58.4” (and, the Article 58.4 says: “When the post of the Deputy Mayor of the Municipality remains free, the Mayor appoints the new Deputy Mayor not later than 30 days since the post has remained free.”). Consequently, Article 59.4 of the Statute of the Obiliq Municipality is in contradiction with both, the Point 2 of the same Article 59 of the same Statute (which foresees that the appointment of the Deputy Mayor for Communities is proposed by the Mayor, and is decided by the Municipal Assembly), and with the Article 51.3 of the Law on Local Self Government which, essentially determines the same thing.[5]

And there is also a third remark that should be made on the Statute of the Municipality of Obiliq: the word language is not mentioned at all in this Statute – consequently, the equality of languages is not determined by the Statute, and we were not able to verify whether the issue of the use of languages in the municipality is regulated with any regulation.

 

 

THE MUNICIPAL INSTITUTIONS ON COMMUNITIES

Due to the symbolic participation of the Serb community in the municipal elections of November 2007, the largest minority community in Obiliq does not have any directly elected representation in the Municipal Assembly. However, the Law on Local Self-Government (Article 54.2) envisages that if the non-majority communities, for whatever reason, do not have any advisor in the Municipal Assembly, then the Municipal Assembly  should elect as the Deputy Chairperson the non-majority community’s candidate who received the most votes on the open list of candidates for election to the Municipal Assembly. Nevertheless, the Municipal Assembly of Obiliq  has not elected the Deputy Chair for Communities, thus failing to fulfill the legal obligations that derive from the legal framework

The Municipal Assembly of Obiliq has established the Committee on Communities on April 15th, 2008, prior to the entering in force of the Law on Local Self Government [6] The chair of the Committee has been elected Mr. Lubomir Djordjevic in close consultations with Serbian Community. In the first half of the year the committee has held two meetings[7].

The minority communities are represented at the level of the municipal executive with the position of Deputy Mayor for Communities and the Head of the Local Office for Communities. The Deputy Mayor for Minorities is Mr. Predrag Jovic, whereas the Head of the Local Office for Communities is Mr. Slavisa Adjancic, both coming from Serbian community.

 

In the civil service communities are represented at the level of 19.1%. Out of this amount, 16.78% are Serbs, 1.5% Ashkali, 0.44% Bosnians and Roma with (0.22%).[8] The municipality of Obiliq has not in place the translation unit and there is only one translator for Albanian and Serbian Language.[9]

 

In terms of financial fair share for communities, 19% of the financial assets of the municipality were allocated for minorities and for minority issues. Also, in the first half of the year 2009 has not been recorded a single case of the violation of minority community rights[10].

 

THE REAL LIFE

 

The aspects of social life in which an individual can be seriously hampered in reaching the aspirations of its own are immense, and when it comes to the members of the non-majority ethnic groups, the scales are more finely tuned. These aspects range from education, healthcare, and institutional freedoms, up to the economic potentials for development. Some from the most sensitive features of these aspects will be mentioned separately, providing the parts for the completion of the patchwork.

 

Education

 

In the Obliq Municipality, education is organized at three levels: pre-school, elementary (primary) and secondary education. The educational process is ethnically divided, with the exception of the elementary school in Caravodice/Crkvena Vodica, where Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb pupils use the same school facility in different shifts. There are nine elementary schools, five of them providing primary education in Albanian, and four in Serbian, and there also is a secondary school in the municipality with the total number of over 5,500 pupils, which includes two integrated secondary school classes of Economy and Medicine in Plemetin/Plemetina for Kosovo Serb students. The ethnic composition of the pupils is more or less the same as the general demographics.

 

All the Serb children from the municipality attend schools in Serbian, and they are very well aware on the difficulties of the security condition. The Serbian school in Obiliq/Obilić has bars over the windows and doors, since it shares the yard with Albanian secondary medical and commercial schools. No incidents between the pupils have been reported so far. The Serbian children from Obiliq/Obilić attend the secondary school in Plemetina/ Plemetinë, which has room for about 350 of them. The same building houses the village’s primary school.

 

Healthcare 

 

The main primary family health center located in the town of Obiliq/Obilić is dedicated to the provision of medical services for all the municipality’s population, and it has five other family health care centers in settlements with more than 2,000 inhabitants. These settlements include Milloshevo, Plemetin, Breznica, Palaj and Sibovc. In addition, there are two other small health care centers in the villages of Shipitulla and Babimoc. The low level of health care services is noticeable, particularly in the northern and south-western parts of the municipality.

 

There is an ethnical division in this field too. The Serbs receive medical treatment at the Serbian medical institutions, financed by the Government of Serbia. With few exceptions, Serbs, in general, do not trust Albanian doctors.

The Roma from the region go mostly to Serbian medical institutions, although they feel more free to visit Albanian ones; for their part, the Ashkali prefer Albanian facilities. The Albanian health centres charge 1 Euro per examination and prescription, though, the social welfare benefit recipients are exempt from this.[11] The Serb health centres do not impose any charges and dispense medicines free of charge. However, the medicines prescribed are not available, and the Roma must buy them at private Albanian pharmacies.

 

Economic Development and Employment

 

The main sources of economic development of the municipality of Obiliq are the thermoelectricity power stations, coal mine, fertile land, and the M2 highway from Prishtina to Mitrovica. The municipality’s main developmental potential lies in the coal mine and rich agricultural land. With some 5400 ha of fertile land, 4500 out of which are in private property, a properly designed strategy for agricultural businesses might be a sound idea for ensuring economic growth. Nevertheless, the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK), with its two major power plants, is and will remain for the foreseeable future, the primary employer in the Obiliq/Obilić municipality.

 

The main problem faced by the members of all the communities in Kosovo, including Albanians, lies in the limited employment opportunities. There were numerous efforts made by the Government of Kosovo regarding the employment of the members of minorities in the political institutions and in the public companies. It can be said that, on the one hand, considerable successes are achieved in the cases of central and local political institutions,[12] and, on the other, there are still considerable obstacles in the cases of public companies.

 

The Municipality of Obiliq, and the employment of the members of its minorities provide a perfect illustration for this. Thus, the Obiliq Municipality has a total of 450 employees: 3 political appointees, and 447 civil servants. This number includes the civil servants working in the Municipality itself, as well as those working for local services in three sectors: education, health, and social services. From 3 political appointees, 2 are Kosovo Albanians, and 1 is Kosovo Serb. From 447 employees in the civil service (overall overview), 362 (80.99%) are Kosovo Albanians, and 85 (19.01%) belong to the minorities – 75 (16.78%) are Kosovo Serbs, 7 (1.57%) are Ashkali, 2 (0.44%) are Bosniaks, and 1 (0.22%) Roma.[13]

 

This kind of appropriate proportion, however, is not to be found in the case of the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK), which, as mentioned, is the main employer in the Obiliq municipality. The total number of employees of KEK (Kosovo wide) is 8241 (6 policy-level officers, who are the Board members, all of them Albanians), and 8235 other employees. Among them, 8126 (98.65%) are Kosovo Albanians, and 109 (1.35%) are from the minority communities – 31 (0.38%) are Bosniaks, 28 (0.35%) are Kosovo Serbs, 28 (0.35%) are Turks, 3 (0.04%) are Roma, and 19 (0,23%) are grouped under the category of ‘others.’[14]

 

On the other hand, the Serbs are exclusively employed in the parallel institutions of the Government of Serbia, which operate in Obiliq, as well as in other parts of Kosovo. There is also a number of members in minority communities working in private businesses, but, on the one hand, their number is very small, and they are limited by the size of their businesses, for they offer goods and services mainly to the members of their communities, and on the other, the number of Serbs working for private businesses owned by Albanians is insignificant.

 

This already inappropriate condition regarding the employment of Kosovo Serbs, was particularly worsened after the Declaration of Independence, since a large number of them did quit their jobs in Kosovo institutions. The Government of Serbia pressured the Serbs to leave their jobs in the institutions under the jurisdiction of the Kosovo Government.

 

During the first two weeks after February 17th, 2008, very few Serbs did go to work. Some of them did take the leave of absence until the end of March 2009. A number of Serbs did start to return to their jobs about three weeks after the Declaration of Independence, but their reluctance to do so is still a significant problem. Quite recently, a considerable success regarding this issue was achieved, when the Kosovo Serb police officers have returned to their jobs at the Kosovo Police Service collectively. This return can also contribute to the improvement of the feelings of communities regarding the security issues, for, based on the legal framework of Kosovo, the security issues are in the competence of the central institutions, not the local ones. Actually, in the Police Station of the Obiliq Municipality, there are 76 police officers, 12 among them Kosovo Serbs.

 

Most Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians have only primary education and find it very hard to find employment. They blame this not only on their poor qualifications but also on alleged discrimination, claiming that certain jobs such as cleaners, drivers, and watchmen do not require secondary education. Whereas before the war most Ashkali and Roma worked for the utility services, today they cannot find work even there. Ashkali with university degrees cannot find employment either, and their Egyptian counterparts have the same difficulties. Most individuals belonging to these minorities are looking for manual work but such jobs are scarce; they are given seasonal work in fields by Serbs and Albanians.

 

All of them are dissatisfied with their proportional representation in public establishments. Some 80 per cent of the Obiliq/Obilić Roma worked in the local thermoelectric power plant before the war. However, this is not the case anymore.

 

The problem with the power plant is much more complex than just presented. KEK is a publicly owned enterprise, and as such falls under the jurisdiction of KPA and is, therefore, more or less free of municipal pressures for employment benefits. On the other hand, the doubling of posts created during the 90’s, when Albanians were fired en masse, only to have their workplaces filled by Serbs or others, has created tremendous problems, which were ‘solved’ in the initial days after the War of 1999, when the opposite development occurred.

 

 

PLEMETIN

 

The village of Plemetin/Plemetinë, located in the municipality of Obiliq/Obilić represents a very important and interesting case. There are approximately 1,000 Serbs and 300-400 Roma citizens living in this village.

 

Serbs and Roma living in Plemetin, consider that they still do not enjoy the freedom of movement. Local citizens live in fear of attacks. Due to this fear, they do not work on their farms, which are located far from the village. They also do not go to bars and cafes in Obiliq/Obilić in which the Albanians use to go. Also, Albanian passers-by occasionally swear at Serbs. According to one from the respondents, the issue of public transportation is also a hindrance to integration. There is no bus service that goes to Plemetin, or from their village to Obiliq/Obilić. Serbs and Roma usually use the train between Mitrovica and Prishtina. The train passes through their village four times a day. They also use taxis operated by Serbs.

 

Serb and Roma citizens have access to all Kosovo institutions. All Serbs’ administrative dealings are conducted in Obiliq/Obilić, where they can be done in Serbian. All documents they receive from the municipality are in Serbian. Nonetheless, Serbs who address the Obiliq/Obilić municipality in writing, have rarely received any reply. Roma citizens address civil servants and officials either in Serbian or in Albanian.

 

Before the War, approximately 80% of the Plemetin’s working force used to work at KEK, that is, at the power plants Kosovo A and Kosovo B, as well as at the open coal-mines of Belaqevc and Dobro Selo. Most of these workers now receive 60 Euros of payment from the Government of Serbia. Several attempts have been made at the end of 2007, and another one at the beginning of 2008, to arrange an appointment with the Director of KEK, as well as with the Minister for Energy. However, there was no response to these initiatives. The letters were written in Serbian. The same request was also sent to the Government of Serbia. They were asked to resolve this problem with KEK on an institutional level.

 

 

RETURNEES

 

A large number of individual/spontaneous returnees in Obiliq are highly vulnerable, the amount of their assets is limited, and they have a very few marketable skills. In order to address their immediate and medium-term needs, the society and the political institutions should seek ways for providing socio-economic assistance and support, in order to enable them for generating income. One from the possible paths for achieving this objective can be to support economically the livelihoods of returnee households through financial grants, for starting up a small business or for generating income through agricultural activity, and/or through the provision of training for the development of necessary skills. The international institutions, as well as the civil society organizations, both, local and international, can also provide a considerable contribution for achieving this goal, and their efforts, in spite of the fact that they were not sufficient, were not absent.

A very important factor for making these returns sustainable, is the enhancement of the public primary healthcare and education facilities, and the implementation of small community development projects in the mixed communities where these returns are taking place. This will ameliorate the social environment of the returnees’ location, and will simultaneously benefit the entire community. Within its strategy, the municipality places the emphasis on the integration of all ethnic communities in Obiliq. One from the recurring challenges for minority returnees is access to, and the provision of, public services, which do also represent fundamental right of any population. Health and education are among key sectors in which mixed communities can work towards creating of an environment that will encourage respect for basic social rights and therefore for sustainable return.

 

 

SERBS

 

After discussing some from the aspects that characterize the situation of minorities in the Obiliq municipality in general, we will now focus at the particular minorities.

 

The situation of the Serbian minority is desperate. They feel excluded from shaping the future of the municipality, and, furthermore, from shaping the future of their own. Not only do they suffer from the minority situation, which is totally new for them – given that they have been the ruling ethnicity in social life in Obiliq for a very long time – furthermore, they also feel to be the victims of different power games between the international community, Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians.

 

To a large extent, their perception may be correct. As mentioned, they are in a situation in which their own influence on their own future is very limited. They are, on the one hand, encouraged by Serbia to oppose the new situation that is emerging, but, on the other, they also feel abandoned and they know that they are not important for Serbia in this power game. For the Serbs in the countryside, this is particularly true during the period after the Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence, after which the Government of Serbia did increasingly focus at the Serbs in the north of Kosovo. As a consequence of the boycotted elections, after the pressures by Serbian Government, the Serbs of the Obiliq municipality are increasingly coming in situation in which they have no legitimate representation, either before the international community, or before the Kosovo’s institutions, and, quite often, not even before their own community.

 

In spite of the fact that the Serbs enjoy complete freedom of movement in their majority areas such as villages of Plemetina/Plemetinë and Babin Most/Babimoc, the situation is far from ideal. The murder of the three-member Stolić family in May 2003, still managed to come up in some from our interviews. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that in the recent years there was a considerable improvement regarding the freedom of movement, which is illustrated by the fact that, in spite of some smaller incidents, ever since the March 2004 turmoil, there was not even a single case of any assassination of any Serb by Albanians in entire Kosovo.

 

In addition, the Serbs from Obiliq/Obilić have no problems with the municipal and judicial authorities, although the Albanian employees occasionally refuse to communicate in Serbian, in spite of the fact that they can speak it. The majority of staff are Albanians, but a considerable number of them are still Serbs, and since the forms are printed in three languages, it is an easily surmountable situation. According to one of the respondents, this sometimes provides for ridiculous situations, in which people talk two different languages when communicating, but, nevertheless, ‘getting the job done.’

 

The Government of Serbia has a major influence on the Serb citizens. It still insists on maintaining parallel institutions in Kosovo, such as schools, faculties, clinics and municipal assemblies. The Government of Serbia also insists that Serbs do not participate in the political life of Kosovo. The negative influence of the Serbian Government intensified after the Declaration of Independence with demands for the Serbs to leave their work in the institutions under the control of the Kosovo Government. On the other hand, insufficient actions of the Kosovo Government, as well as sporadic incidents, for instance, an explosive device thrown at the apartment of Robert Savić, a Serb in Obiliq/Obilić in December 2007, also have an impact on the continued fear among the Serbian community.

 

Generally, all minority communities have free access to all Obiliq institutions and this did not change after February 17th, 2008. Nevertheless, the Serbs are, up to a certain extent, using services provided by the Office for Communities less and less.

 

 

THE ROMA, ASHKALI, AND EGYPTIANS 

 

Almost nine years after the Kosovo War (1999), the situation of the Kosovo smaller minorities – particularly of the Roma, Ashkali, and Kosovo-Egyptians – has hardly improved. These people continue to represent the poorest population group in the country, and they have limited access to the job market, public services and education. Only few of them could resume their former jobs. Faced with the demands from all the other ethnic groups, there was not so much that the municipal institutions were able to do.

 

 

MEDIA

 

Obiliq does not have any local TV stations, and it has no local newspaper either. Radio wise Obiliq has three local radio stations: Radio Evropa, Radio M, and Radio Most. Only Radio Evropa broadcasts in three languages while Radio M and Radio Most broadcast in Serbian. The newscasts of Radio Evropa are made with an emphasis on local events, while radio M and Most take them predominantly, either from Belgrade or from regional Serbian broadcasters.

 

Radio Evropa presents a very interesting and important instance, for it broadcasts in all three languages (in separate time slots), and it also has a local content programming.

 

Regarding the satisfaction with the level of available information, the Ashkali and Egyptians of the region are satisfied with the amount of information they receive, and they listen and watch all the Albanian-language radio and TV programmes, especially RTK (Radio Television of Kosovo) and KTV (Koha Television). The Roma express dissatisfaction, for there are not enough programs in their language. They fear justly that their children may forget their mother tongue, and they have expressed the desire to have a Roma newspaper which will report daily on Roma affairs and culture. They do not consider the daily five-minute news broadcasts and the 40- minute weekly programme in Roma on RTK, to be sufficient for meeting their needs.

 

On the other hand, the Serbs feel content with the level of information available to them with regard to general events. Both Serbian and Roma citizens from Plemetin/Plemetinë complain about the lack of information on the work and activities of the municipality or about job vacancies. They blame the Office of Communities for this lack of information. There is no notice board in the village. They learn about the meetings in the municipality from the people who visit the municipality.

 

A very small number of members of minorities use Internet for access to information. Minority communities express their dissatisfaction with information provided on notice boards of municipalities, cities and villages, although we have noticed that the information on municipal notice boards was kept updated in both languages.

 

 

THE USE OF LANGUAGES IN THE MUNICIPALITY AND PUBLICLY OWNED ENTERPRISES

 

In the Constitution of Kosovo, the Article 5 on Languages is part of the chapter Basic Provisions. Based on this Article, the official languages in the Republic of Kosovo are Albanian and Serbian, whereas, Turkish, Bosnian and Roma languages have the status of the official languages at the municipal level or will be in official use at all levels as provided by law.[15]

 

On the other hand, the Law on the Use of Languages[16] determines that at the municipal level, if a community speaks a language that is not an official language, and constitutes at least 5% of the municipality’s population, that language can be accorded the status of an official language at the municipal level. Also, if a community speaks a language that is not an official language, and constitutes between 3% and 5% of the municipal population, that language can become a language ‘in official use’ at the municipal level.

 

In real life, however, the minorities’ inability to speak Albanian is another obstacle that has a considerable negative impact in the aspirations of their members, and hinders their integration into Kosovo society.

 

Speaking in Kosovo wide terms, concerning the Albanian language, Turks are in the best position, since most of them speak Albanian. Albanian is also the mother tongue of Ashkali and Egyptian citizens. However, very few from Kosovo Bosniak, Gorani, Serb and Roma citizens speak Albanian.

 

Until February 17th, 2008, there was a noted progress in the improvement of relations of all ethnic communities in the Obiliq Municipality. Kosovo institutions, both, central and local, have publicly advocated the integration of the Serbian community into the Kosovo society. As a result, the Language Commission, based on the Law on the Use of Languages, was established in May 2007.

.

After the Declaration of Independence, the efforts for improving the position of Serbs were continuing. A fact attesting this is that ever since February 17th, 2008, no ethnically motivated incident has been recorded in Obiliq. Serbs can still have their administrative needs fulfilled in the municipal institutions. However, it should be noted that after February 17th, the Serbs generally feel insecure, including even those rare ones who have first boycotted their workplaces in Kosovo’s institutions, but who have later returned to them.

 

The use of language in the municipalities is regulated, as mentioned, by the Law on the Use of Language articles 7-9. Obiliq is a municipality in which the Law on the Use of Languages is applied almost in its entirety. All public and internal documentation, such as the collegium of directors’ decisions, resolutions and conclusions, administrative guidelines, rulebooks and regulations are prepared and published in both, Albanian and Serbian. But, the Municipalities Web-Site is functional only in Albanian Language that hinders Serb community to get an easy access to public information and their involvement in the municipality’s policy making.

Signs placed at the entrance of the municipal building, names of municipal services and employees, information, classified ads inside the municipal building are written in Albanian and Serbian. All the documents are issued in the languages in which clients submit requests. Citizens, who are members of minority communities, however, sometimes complain since these documents are not written in accordance with the rules of their language. This is mainly related to the way in which Serb names are spelled. For example, instead of the name Snežana, which would be correct according to Serbian orthographic rules, the officers write Snezhana, which is in accordance with Albanian orthography. No Serbian or Albanian language courses have been organized for the employees of the municipal administration.

 

Names of the streets and suburbs are written in Albanian and Serbian (although in several cases the Serb writing was over-painted with spray). The municipal stamp is in Albanian, English, and Serbian, while the logo is in the Albanian language. A municipal website has been built and is fully functional in both Albanian and Serbian, with less frequent updates in the English language.

 

Since in terms of the court, the Obiliq/Obilić municipality remains under the jurisdiction of the Prishtina/Priština courts, they in turn appear to fully respect the usage of the law on languages.

 

The Official languages in the Prishtina/Priština Municipal and District Courts are Albanian and Serbian. All officers communicate with clients in languages in which they are addressed. If they do not speak that language, then they look for an interpreter. Simultaneous interpretation is provided in trials and all parties to the procedure follow the course of the hearing in their mother tongue. Subpoena contains a form in both Albanian and Serbian. All judges receive necessary documents in their mother tongue. All the laws in the Gazette are published in English, Albanian, and Serbian. Pristhina/Priština District and Municipal Court, as well as other courts in Kosovo, do not have their own publications. Judges in Kosovo receive information on various activities through the Supreme Court or the Kosovo Judges Association. Other information and the bulletin are in Albanian, English, and Serbian.

 

Court decisions are prepared in accordance to the party’s nationality. Bosniak judges prepare their activity plans in the Bosniak language. They also write their court decisions in their own language. This document is then translated into Albanian if parties are Albanians. Albanian judges do the same – they write their court decisions in Albanian, and they afterwards are translated into the party’s language.

On the other hand, a series of interviews were conducted with public relations officers in the public companies operating in Obliq. The objective of the interviews was to assess the extent to which public companies hire members of minority communities, and to ascertain the number of minority employees, their opportunity to use mother tongue in the workplace, as well as to to ascertain the relationship between the public companies and the end-users of their services (i.e. in what languages are the bills, contracts and other information issued).

In general terms the situation could be defined as “bleak”. Although the public companies abide by most of the regulations regarding language, their hiring practices leave a lot to be desired. KEK is seen by the minority members living in Obiliq as a public company that favors only Albanians.

 

The employment contracts for all employees are prepared at the KEK’s main headquarters building in Prishtina/Priština. Employment contracts and all other documentation, including leave request authorizations, are issued to Serb employees in the Serbian language. Some of the Serb employees who started working for the company before the promulgation of the Law on the Use of Languages, did receive their employment contracts in Albanian language. Contracts are translated into the Serbian language in accordance with the law. Internal KEK documentation, along with information on bulletin boards, names of employees and the names of different departments, are all in Albanian. There is a translation office in KEK. This office is responsible for the translations of documents into Serbian and English languages, and for translations from other languages into Albanian. Electricity bills are issued in Albanian, Serbian and English languages. Communication with consumers is conducted in the language in which KEK employees are addressed.

 

KEK announces job vacancies in daily newspapers in Albanian and Serbian languages. The KEK website is in Albanian, English and Serbian languages. It is updated in all three languages. The communication among colleagues is conducted freely in all languages. KEK employees provide answers for service consumers in the language in which they are addressed.

 

There is no reliable information on the number of minority employees who had worked before the War for Electric Power Industry of Serbia (EPS), whose successor is KEK. There is also no reliable information on the percentage of employees, members of minority groups, who had worked before the war. Most of the workers did not report to work after the war, most likely because of the circumstances that were created, but at the same time there were also political reasons why the Serbs refused to return to work. According to the public relations officer in KEK, EPS still gives salaries to some 7,000 to 8,000 former employees, which enables it to put pressure on them to refuse to partake in “Kosovo companies”. A similar story can be found in the case of the “Regional Public Companies for Water Supply and Sewage“ based in Prishtina, which is responsible for supplying its services to Obiliq as well. City Sanitation Public Companies that are responsible for the maintenance of city cleanliness, including parks and cemeteries, have their employment contracts issued to minority employees in their mother tongues. But, again, all documentation, information in head offices of sanitation companies, names of employees and names of department services are only in Albanian.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • The municipal assembly of Obiliq should redraft its statute in accordance with the national legislation related to the procedures foreseen for the appointment and dismissal of the Deputy Mayor for Communities.
  • The Municipal Assembly should elect the Deputy Chair for Communities and fulfill the legal obligations that derive from national and municipal legislation.
  • The Municipality should establish the translation unit and strengthening it with professional personnel in order to implement in an official manner the Law on the Use of Languages.
  • In cooperation with the National Government, the Municipality of Obiliq should aim additional efforts in order to improve the position of ethnic communities in Kosovo minorities’ right to employment in publicly owned enterprises, and ensure that members of communities working within public companies in particular regions should reflect the ethnic composition of the region where the public company operates.
  • The Central Government institutions should deal with the incoherence between the constitutional provisions that guarantee the proportional employment of minority members in publicly owned companies, and the substantial independence of these companies which gives them the room for avoiding this constitutional requirement.
  • Regarding the previous three recommendations, a particular emphasis should be provided to the condition of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities.
  • The municipality should negotiate an agreement with city public transportation companies in Obiliq, in order to introduce regular bus lines to all parts of Obiliq.
  • The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Kosovo (MEST) should develop a curriculum and provide all textbooks for education in the Serbian language, for Serbian students, as well as for those belonging to other minorities who want to be educated in Serbian.
  • The Municipality of Obiliq should make a full use of the Committee on Communities and Deputy Mayor for Communities in order to improve the position and conditions of the minority communities in the municipality
  • The efforts aiming at further improvements in the application of the Law on the Use of Languages should continue. The municipality should urgently launch a campaign whose task would be to inform the citizens of Obiliq and persons employed in public institutions about the responsibilities of institutions according to the Law on the Use of Languages. In the process of informing citizens, the Municipality should primarily target minority communities in order to introduce them to all the instruments available to them that protect their minority rights.
  • Kosovo Government and Municipal authorities of Obiliq should encourage participation of minority communities in the forthcoming municipal elections, in order increase the legitimacy of their elected representatives.


[1] In 1981 was held the last census in which participated all the ethnic groups.

[2] Statistic Office of Kosova, 1981 census.

[3] PDK – The Democratic Party of Kosovo (7 seats); LDK – The Democratic League of Kosovo (6 seats); AAK – The Alliance for the Kosovar Future (3 seats); AKR – The Alliance for the New Kosovo (3 seats); ORA – The Reformist Party ORA (1 seat); PD – Justice Party (1 seat).

[4] Seven years after the establishment of the local self-governance in Kosovo, UNMIK had promulgated the Regulation 2007/27 ‘On Municipal Elections in Kosovo,’ which has enabled the direct election of Mayors in the municipalities.

[5] The Law on Local Self Government foresees two Deputy Mayor posts: The Deputy Mayor of the Municipality, and the Deputy Mayor for Communities (for the municipalities with more than 10% of population belonging to non-majority communities). There is a fundamental distinction between these two posts, regarding the procedures for appointment and dismissal of both. The Deputy Mayor of the Municipality is appointed and dismissed by the Mayor, and the Deputy Mayor for Communities is appointed and dismissed upon the proposal of the Mayor, by the majority of the Municipal Assembly members, with the approval of the majority Municipal Assembly members who belong to the non-majority communities. This provides the Deputy Mayor for Communities with a crucial level of independence and defense, necessary for fulfilling the duties of this post. This independence and defense suffers by the Article 59.4 of the Statute of the Obiliq Municipality.

Komiteti për Komunitete u takua sot, 15.04.08, http://www.komuna-obiliq.org/?cid=1,10,27

[7] Raporti i funksionimit të Komunave të Republikës së Kosovës, Janar – Qershor 2009,. Ministria e Adminsitrimit të Pushtetit Lokal, Korrik 2009, f.64.

[8] A very interesting detail – indeed, a detail that should be warmly welcomed and appreciated – regarding the employees in civil service in the Obiliq Municipality is the one on the gender representation. The gender representation ratio is 257 (57.49%) to 190 (42.51%) in favour of women, while within the very category of minority communities, the same ratio is 52.94% to 47.06% in favour of women (in absolute numbers: 45 to 40).

[9] Raporti i funksionimit të Komunave të Republikës së Kosovës, Janar – Qershor 2009,. Ministria e Adminsitrimit të Pushtetit Lokal, Korrik 2009, f.65.

 

[10] Ibid

[11] The Government of Kosovo pays all the healthcare benefits to those who are eligible, as well as social benefits, including the old-age pensions to those over 65 years of age.

[12] And, in those cases in which the difficulties are being faced, these difficulties are predominantly a consequence of avoidance of the Kosovo’s institutions by the Serbs.

[13] A very interesting detail – indeed, a detail that should be warmly welcomed and appreciated – regarding the employees in civil service in the Obiliq Municipality is the one on the gender representation. The gender representation ratio is 257 (57.49%) to 190 (42.51%) in favour of women, while within the very category of minority communities, the same ratio is 52.94% to 47.06% in favour of women (in absolute numbers: 45 to 40).

[14] Interview with Mr. Srdjan Sentic, Haed of the Office for Communities, Office of the Prime Minister of Kosovo,  August 2009

[15] See the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, Article 5 [Languages], at:

http://www.kosovoconstitution.info/?cid=2,247.

[16] The Law on the Use of Languages; No. 02/L-37.