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    • Better relations between Belgrade, Pristina and Tirana are necessary for regional stability

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    • Date: 27 June 2014
      The answer to stability in the Western Balkans is better cooperation in the triangle Belgrade-Pristina-Tirana, and it could be reached by establishing closer and more direct cooperation and effective communication between Serbian and Kosovo police, it was concluded during the sixth Security Research Forum.

      The sixth Security Research Forum Belgrade-Pristina-Tirana was attended by more than 70 members of Parliament, Ministry of Interior, embassies, international organizations, CSOs and media
      The sixth Security Research Forum Belgrade-Pristina-Tirana was attended by more than 70 members of Parliament, Ministry of Interior, embassies, international organizations, CSOs and media

      "The key to  progress of the Western Balkan countries in the next decade lies with improving the Serbian-Albanian relations. What Serbia and Croatia accomplished after the breakup of Yugoslavia in order to improve relations - we believe that Belgrade, Pristina and Tirana can do the same. One of the ways to connect the three communities could be the improvement of police and economic cooperation", said BCSP Director Sonja Stojanovic Gajic during the conference "Security aspects of normalization of Belgrade-Pristina-Tirana relations" held on June 27 in the Media Center Belgrade.

      Police cooperation  

      Presenting research on the integration of police officers in Northern Kosovo, BCSP researcher Maja Bjelos explained the integration process, as well as remaining challenges. 

      "From the 15 points of the Brussels agreement, three are related to the integration of police officers and that  is considered to be the most successful part of the Brussels agreement. In this way, there has been an increase in the participation of Serbs in the Kosovo police force which is an important first step towards overcoming the vacuum in the security situation in Kosovo. So far,  287 police officers were integrated from the proposed 337. The current problem is verifying degrees and determination of ranks, and also the fact that the Serbs from south of the Ibar River are not included in the integration process", said Bjelos.

      Second panel of the conference was on police cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo and it was marked by discussion on the integration of minorities into the police
      Second panel of the conference was on police cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo and it was marked by discussion on the integration of minorities into the police
       Head of Coordination Directorate for Kosovo and Metohija within the Ministry of Interior, Slavisa Arsenijevic said that despite effective cooperation in the integration of Serbs in Northern Kosovo, the return of Serbian police ranks has repeatedly been delayed.

      "They are all still working on patrol instead of the specialized and complicated tasks that they  previously performed. In addition, the police officers were afraid for their futures, given the fact that several active police officers were interrogated by the EULEX prosecutor, despite the implementation of the amnesty law", said Arsenijevic.

      In the future, we should ensure that all officers who want to join the Kosovo police are integrated, in addition to members of civil protection units, and giving them the full power  to restore confidence of the Serbs in the institutions.

      Researcher at the Kosovar Center for Security Studies Sophia Kryeziu analyzed the integration of Albanians into Serbian police, calling it a positive process in which the position of the Albanian minority was significantly improved. Proof of this is the fact that the residents of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja believe  in police to a greater degree than citizens of other parts of Serbia, which was showed in the public opinion research that the BCSP, KCSS and IDM published last year. She stressed that there is still a gap between the   Albanian population and their representation in the police force, and also the fact that  Albanians are underrepresented in managerial positions. The KCSS researcher pointed out that the  most important obstacles to increasing the number of Albanians in the police forces include the recognition of degrees and further training for young people who want to be part of the police.

      Head of Coordination Directorate for Kosovo and Metohija within the Ministry of Interior, Slavisa Arsenijevic pointed out that there are no discriminatory regulations within the Ministry , and that terms regarding race, ethnicity or religion are not set for employment processes in the Ministry of Interior. He further presented to the audience many promotional measures undertaken in order to motivate the Albanian minority to join the police force.

      "In 2011 a project was implemented in order to hire more than 100 young Serbs and Albanians in the police. There were multi-day trainings for the Albanians to help them pass the basic police training. Also, the Ministry of Interior has purchased computers with multi-language software to allow minorities to write the entrance exam in their native language, and has organized classes to assist with improving their knowledge of the Serbian language and general culture. In 2013 a promotional film was published and various open-door events were held. All implemented projects were followed by a series of promotional activities - workshops, conferences, study visits. In 2014we  organized discussions on the registration of national minorities for police trainings", said Arsenijevic.

      The challenge is to ensure the continuous reception of Albanians into the Serbian police and provide them with adequate education and training, said Member of  Parliament Riza Halimi. He pointed out that there is only one Albanian student in the police academy, and that three years ago there was a competition for police officers where only 8 Albanians passed the entrance exam, while  an Albanian lawyer failed to pass the theoretical part. Halimi said that this problem should be solved, as well as the problem of the recognition of degrees.

      Despite political tensions, tensions in the cooperation between criminal groups do not exist, said KCSS researcher Shpend Kursani. He said that because of the cooperation between the criminals, it is necessary to establish better operational police cooperation. As he pointed out, the major problem is drug trafficking, but human trafficking as well. Kursani has presented that the cooperation is currently involved in formal channels via intermediaries (UNMIK in cooperation with the National Biro Interpol MoI RS, through EULEX with Euroepol), and informally and directly across ILECU. I a direct operational police cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo police, including exchanges for police  liaison officers, should be established in the near future.

      Improving relations in the region

      Photo: Media center
      Photo: Media center
       The Executive Director of the Kosovar Center for Security Studies in Pristina Florian Qehaja said that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was supported by 47 percent of Albanians and 45 percent of Serbs, which means that there is support for the political elites in this direction on both sides. However, as he pointed out, the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has not fully addressed the requirements of the local population of Albanians and Serbs.

      "The EU focused on the political dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and they excluded the population from the process. The good thing is that the elites now know each other, they are able to communicate and there is business cooperation. But what remains as a major problem is the lack of mobility of people, which contributes to fostering the stereotypes", said Qehaja. 

      Head of the European and Security Research Department at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation from Tirana Arjan Dyrmishi pointed out that the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina is a great opportunity to raise concerns among Albanians and Serbs who have historically always been threatened because of the Kosovo issue.

      "Albanian politicians were always reluctant in approaching relations with Serbia and they were proactive according that. Expectations are high that the new political elite, led by Prime Minister Rama, will work towards the improvement of relations, but this improvement is still not visible enough in real life", said Dyrmishi.

      This event is a  part of the Security Research Forum Belgrade-Pristina-Tirana, a joint initiative of three independent think-tanks specialized in security research:  Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSSand Institute for Mediation and Democracy (IDM).

       

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