Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Model for "Malesia Region": "Presevo Valley Region" Seeks Self-Determination
AUGUST 4, 2009 -- Opinions differ over whether the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia should gain the status of a region with its own institutions and organs.
While ethnic Albanians from the south consider this as the only solution to keep their national, cultural and religious identity, Serbian politicians refuse their demands and are pushing ahead with plans of their own for the south. The ethnic Albanian proposal was raised on Saturday in the assembly of the Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac municipalities and envisages the creation of an ethnic Albanian-led governance structure for the Presevo Valley area.
Riza Halimi, leader of the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Action, told Balkan Insight that the proposal confirms a 2006 declaration, which envisaged giving ethnic Albanians in the region the right to self-determination.
G17 Plus party Whip Suzana Grubjesic told Tanjug news agency on Monday that the formation of ethnic regions would lead to the destabilisation and possible disintegration of Serbia.
“There are absolutely no conditions for any national minority in Serbia to form its own region. It would be opposed to the idea and main purpose of the regionalisation process, which is to defend [against] any kind of separatism,” the agency quoted Grubjesic as saying.
The head of the Presevo municipality, Ragmi Mustafa, told the Borba daily that the Serbian public is not well informed regarding Serbian government policy towards the south.
He said that reasons for creating the "Presevo Valley Region" are numerous and include political, economic and developmental imperatives.
“The political reason is the 1992 referendum, when a majority of local citizens voted for political, cultural and territorial autonomy along with closer relations with Kosovo,” the daily quoted Mustafa as saying.
Borba reports that Mustafa did not exclude the possiblity of a territorial exchange between Serbs and Albanians in which areas of northern Kosovo in which Serbs form a majority are swapped for areas of southern Serbia in which Albanians are the predominant ethnic group.
Serbia's state secretary for Kosovo and Metohija, Oliver Ivanovic, told Tanjug that the Serbian government will not consider dividing Kosovo, or a so-called exchange of northern Kosovo for south Serbia, since both "Kosovo and south Serbia are part of Serbia’s territory and no one in Belgrade can think of it in that direction".
State Administration and Local Self-Government Minister Milan Markovic thinks that Saturday’s proposal for the establishment of a separate region in the Presevo Valley area will not resolve problems ethnic Albanians are facing in the south. He underlined that the Serbian government will continue with its existing policies regarding the area, which is slated for incorporation in a new southern region.
The president of Bujanovac municipality, Saip Kamberi, believes ethnic Albanians demands are reasonable and marry with the EU integration process.
Coordination Body for Kosovo representative, Branko Delibasic, disagrees saying that the "Presevo Valley" is a newly created term, which does not exist in geography schoolbooks. The geographical term for the region is Vranje-Kumanovo basin, he claims.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 10:44 AM