Serbia and Kosovo dispute property claims

Once Yugoslavia, now Kosovo: Priština. [Vegim Zhitija/Flickr]

Kosovo decided to appropriate the property of the former Yugoslavia’s Serbia and Kosovo Province, adding pressure to an already strained relationship. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

The Serbian government was quick to respond, announcing that the government will soon annul this decision. The Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, stated he would use the opportunity of the Western Balkans summit in Sarajevo on 15-16 March to try to convey to his counterpart, Kosovo’s Isa Mustafa that such a move makes no sense.

According to EURACTIV partner Beta, the Kosovo cadastre agency has been instructed to immediately register all real estate, amounting to more than 2 million square meters of buildings, including a ski resort and a mining complex, but also land, as the property of Kosovo.

The government in Priština made efforts to not publicise the decision, as it took two weeks following its 1 March adoption to make headlines.

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Succession over the property of the former Yugoslavia is a complex issue for the ex-republics – Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. It is even more complicated for Kosovo, as it didn’t have the status of a republic, but also because Serbia cannot be expected to recognise Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence any time soon.

The head of the government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Đurić, stated on 15 March that he would request that, at its next session, the Serbian government annul the Pristina government’s decision to seize real estate in Kosovo.

He pointed out the similar reaction when Kosovo decided to take control of the Trepča mining complex.

Serbian Foreign minister Ivica Dačić called the decision by Kosovo “absolutely unacceptable, illegal and damaging”.

“By taking the one more unilateral decision, Pristina shows that it is not interested in the dialogue in Brussels,” Dačić stated, adding that Serbia had raised that issue several times during negotiations in Brussels, but Kosovar officials did not wish to discuss it.

“No succession between Serbia and Kosovo”

Analyst Dušan Janjić says that at the present moment, decisions from Belgrade don’t have any impact on Kosovo.

Asked by BETA to comment on the issue, he explained that, as part of the country’s EU integrations process, Serbia accepted that its laws aren’t applicable to Kosovar territory, and consequently don’t have the legal rights to annul legislation in the country.

Such acts, in his opinion, are of a political nature, and can serve as the basis for Serbia to take other legal, political or diplomatic steps.

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Kosovo made the decision on property following the logic of the succession process of the property of the former Yugoslavia, he said, explaining that Serbia cannot enter such a process with Kosovo, as it doesn’t recognise its independence.

One of the solutions for Serbia that he proposes is to tackle the issue through negotiations.

Property was not yet discussed in the EU-facilitated negotiations on the so-called normalisation of relations. The Serbian side claims that it wanted to put this question on the table, but Kosovo refused.

The negotiations, which are a crucial part of the EU path for Serbia and Kosovo, are in deep crisis after the announcement by Priština that the negotiations will be suspended until the freeing of politician Ramush Haradinaj, who was arrested in France on 4 January, according to an Interpol warrant for his extradition to Serbia.

Haradinaj was indicted in Serbia for war crimes committed in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, and is waiting on a French court decision, due in April.

Control over ski resort and mines

The properties impacted by the decision include the Trepča Mines and the Brezovica ski resort, which were already the subject of bitter discussions between Serbia and Kosovo.

The Kosovo government announced in October that it took control over the Trepča complex, while they also proceeded with the development of Brezovica with the French partners, despite strong opposition from Serbia, which views sees the process as unlawful privatisation.

According to the Geodetic Authority of Serbia, the Republic of Serbia is the owner of 29% of the land in Kosovo.

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