What is the Association of Serb-majority Communes?

Kosovo's flag / Euronews Albania

Gabriel Escobar and Miroslav Lajcak will be visiting Kosovo today. These high-ranking diplomats are expected to forward several important messages regarding the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and the Association of Serb-majority Communes.

These messages, meant to be directed at Kosovo’s governing institutions, are said to mark a new beginning in the dialogue process, which will include the implementation of Serbia’s past agreements, one of which is the much-talked-about Association.

But what is the Association and what are the implications for Kosovo?

For some time now, high public officials in Kosovo have considered the possibility of this association actually formalizing to be detrimentally harmful to the country’s sovereignty, as it would grant Serb-majority communes their own decision-making autonomy.

PM Kurti has called this association an attempt at the ‘Bosniazation of Kosovo’.

The Association of Serb-majority community is expected to include 10 communes in northern Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs are concentrated the most in North Mitrovica, Klokot, Partesh, Ranilug, Gracanica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok, Novoberdo, Leposavic and Shterpc.

The establishment of this Association was first initiated back in 2013, following the Brussels Agreement signed by both Kosovo and Serbia.

It aims to become a formal body that would represent the interests of Serbian citizens living in these communes, mainly in the education, economic, and health sectors and in terms of urban and rural planning.

In one of the opening articles of the Brussels Agreement, it states that based on the competencies listed in the European Charter of Local Self-Government and Kosovo’s Constitution, the participating communes will be granted the right to cooperate in order to exert their power and jurisdiction over the entire Association.

The initial agreement emphasizes that the Association will be founded on the basis of a statute of all Serb-majority communes in Kosovo – that will be registered as a non-profit organization meant to represent and serve the interests of all participating communes.

Description of the Association in the Initial Agreement

The Association of Serb-majority Communes in Kosovo has been designed to function as an NGO, serving and representing the interests of citizens living within these communes.

Its Assembly will seat a total of 126 members and it will be made up of the leaders of each commune as well as an elected advisor for each of the 10 communal counselors as well as representatives from minorities living in these communes.

The Mission of this Association will be to create an effective, stable, and democratic local government, that will fulfill the needs and services applicable to citizens of these communes.

Supplementary Agreement on the principles of the Association

After the 2013 agreement, representatives of Kosovo and Serbia met once again in 2015, in Brussels, in order to sign a supplementary agreement on the establishment of this Association.

This additional agreement foresaw that the Association would have its own set of bodies and an organizational structure.

According to this agreement, the Association will be governed by its own supreme body – an Assembly that will be made up of representatives that get appointed by the elected members of each commune’s own individual assembly.

Another article in this Agreement foresees that the Assembly of the Association will have the right to vote on and adopt amendments to the statute and its specific guidelines and administrative rulings.

The Association is also expected to elect its own president and deputy president. This president and deputy president will be elected by the members of the Assembly.

This body will have its own budget, which will be administered in compliance with the principles of transparency and accountability clarified in the various dispositions of the public procurement law.

On December 23, 2015, Kosovo’s Constitutional Court issued a formal ruling saying that the Association of Serb-majority Communes should be established based on the different principles foreseen by the first Brussels Agreement.

However, the Constitutional also made a contrasting observation which stated that the general principles of the Association don’t entirely comply with Kosovo’s Constitution.

The European Union continues to hold on to its stance that all agreements signed by Kosovo and Serbia during the dialogue process, should be implemented but that they need to take into consideration the opinion of Kosovo’s Constitutional Court as well.