Tenth Assessment of the Situation of Ethnic Minorities in Kosovo
(Period covering May 2002 to December 2002)
SECTION 5: ACCESS TO PUBLIC, CIVIL AND POLITICAL STRUCTURES
I. ACCESS TO THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
In May 2002, the Central Election Commission (CEC) recommended to the SRSG a proportional electoral system for the Municipal Elections to be held in October 2002. The resulting general framework, enshrined in UNMIK Regulation 2002/11, On The Municipal Elections in Kosovo and subsequent CEC Electoral Rules, was favourable to smaller political entities, which generally proved advantageous to political entities from minority communities. The system did not contain any electoral thresholds for winning seats - similar to the system used in the 2000 Municipal Elections - though, unlike the electoral system used in 2001, neither did it contain any positive discriminatory measures, such as set-aside seats for minorities. Consequently, minority parties were required to consider whether coalitions would be advantageous and to raise the degree of their political organisation in order to mobilise their potential voters. A community could only maximise its chances of wining seats in a municipal assembly if only one political entity attempted to gather the vote from the community's electorate.
The electoral framework was flexible with respect to the manner and form with which political entities could participate in the elections. This flexibility was designed to ensure a ballot that was diverse as possible. This led to a rather high degree of political diversity within Kosovo's minority communities but perhaps diminished the significance of each of the entities in the political landscape of Kosovo. The concept of the electoral system started from the prerequisite that many of the non-majority communities are concentrated in specific locations within Kosovo's 30 municipalities and could gain representation if they mobilised their electorate in an effective way. This generally proved to be the case, with some exceptions and caveats discussed below. Nevertheless, for the first time since the conflict, all ethnic communities participated in the municipal electoral process, resulting in 25 political entities from five ethnic communities achieving representation in at least one municipal assembly.
It is worth noting that 2002 saw the appearance of a large and fragmented diversity of Kosovo Serb political entities. This stands in sharp contrast to the Kosovo Assembly Election in 2001, when the Kosovo Serb community united behind only one certified entity-Coalition Return (KP). Thus KP was faced with competition from within the Kosovo Serb community itself. Out of a total of 68 political entities certified to compete in the Municipal Assembly elections in 2002, 31-running in 24 municipalities-were of Serb community origin. Of these, 21 political entities got a total of 94 seats in 18 municipalities. Of these 18 municipalities, eight have only one Kosovo Serb representative. An important point is that almost all the seats for Kosovo Serb representatives were won by votes cast in-person in the municipalities, with only a few votes from Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Serbia and Montenegro. It is noteworthy, however, that KP won its votes mainly from the out-of-Kosovo electorate in Serbia Proper and Montenegro.
Among Kosovo Serb political entities two main types could be distinguished: those that were registered and active both in Serbia proper and in Kosovo, and the others which were established and active only in Kosovo or in some particular region of the province. From a financial standpoint, the political entities acting as local branches of Serbia proper based political parties had financial support, while small and locally run political entities based in Kosovo faced significant financial difficulties in mounting an electoral campaign.
With regard to the performance of non-Serbian minority political entities two trends can be identified. Firstly, some of these entities, having participated in at least one of the previous elections, showed considerable improvement in their internal organisation and their ability to mobilise their electorate. The main examples of reasonably cohesive non-Serbian minority political entities are The Kosovo Bosniak coalition 'Vatan' (seven seats throughout Kosovo) and the Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo (KDTP) which won five seats . This assessment can, to a lesser degree, be applied to the Kosovo Egyptian party - IRDK (four seats) and one of the Kosovo Ashkaelia parties, PDAK which won three seats. Also, the Kosovo Gorani entity - GIG - took two seats in Dragash/Draga. Other non-Serb minority political entities suffered from financial difficulties and/or a lack of organisation. In some cases, the community was just too small to support a political entity. The Roma community in particular suffered from these factors, and neither of the two Roma entities contesting the elections won any seats. The electoral performance of the Janjevo/Croatian Citizens' Initiative representing the Kosovo Croatian community is another case in point. Primarily concentrated in the village of Janjevë/Janjevo in Lipjan/Lipljan municipality, there were most likely not enough Croatian voters in Lipjan/Lipljan to ensure representation in the Municipal Assembly, and the entity did not have the financial resources to mobilise support among IDPs in Croatia. It should generally be concluded that, beside the electoral success or failure of non-majority political entities, confusion and internal struggles in particular amongst Kosovo Ashkaelia, Roma and Bosniak communities are still hampering the development of concise community representation. The internal differences could be well illustrated by the case of the two Kosovo Ashkaelia parties (PDASHK, PDAK) that were created after a dispute between Kosovo Ashkaelia political leaders.
Ethnic minorities in general faced structural obstacles in conducting political campaign activities. The profile of the political campaigns and attitudes of voters from non-majority communities were determined by limited financial resources, restricted freedom of movement of small local political entities and the inability to mobilise the out-of-Kosovo electorate. Due to difficult financial situation, the Roma Citizen Initiative (IQRK) could not conduct any campaign activities. This is contrasted by the support the PDAK has received from Ashkaelia Diaspora in Western European countries, which enabled this entity to conduct pre-electoral rallies in Fushe Kosovë/Kosovo Polje and Podujevë/Podujevo municipalities. The election campaign and voters attitude of Kosovo Serb political entities in Kosovo was not very active. The only Serbian political party that carried out political rallies in the central Prishtinë/Pristina region of Kosovo was Movement for Kosovo and Metohija (PKM) led by Mr. Momcilo Trajkovic. Kosovo Serb political entities in Prishtinë/Pristina region did not report any obstacles for certification of their political entities. However, they emphasised that this was due to the OSCE support through transport of political leaders to meetings at the OSCE Department of Election Operations.
In general, the Voter Service and Registration operation was accessible to all minority communities including IDPs living in Serbia proper and Montenegro where a special voter registration effort was mounted by the OSCE. Voter education and information programs were also accessible by all communities, again including a special voter information campaign for IDPs living outside Kosovo.
II. ACCESS TO POLITICAL PROCESS
The AoK is comprised of 120 elected Assembly Members, including 20 set-aside seats for minority communities. Out of the 14 different political parties represented, seven are from minority communities. In total, 35 deputies of the AoK represent minority communities. To date, little to no legislation originated from non-majority proposals at the central level. A positive step for the inter-ethnic relations in Kosovo is that the presidency of the Assembly has eight seats, one of them being reserved for a representative of the ethnic communities. The seat is taken on a rotating basis. During 2002, Mr. Haxhi Merxha (PREBK) filled this post and, as of January 2003, Mrs. Nafiye Gas (KDTP) is to take up the position. As a member of the presidency, Mrs. Gas is the highest-ranking female in the AoK, as well as in the PISG, which has no female appointed as a Minister.
The appointments to the PISG of Mr. Goran Bogdanovic as Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, Mr. Nenad Radosavljevic as Advisor on Returns to the office of the SRSG from the Kosovo Serb community, Mr. Milorad Todorovic as Interministerial Coordinator on Returns, and of Mr. Numan Balic from the Kosovo Bosniak community as Minister of Health, should be considered as landmarks in the post-conflict relations of Kosovo's communities. In order to enable the representation of the ethnic minorities in the committees of AoK, the initial number of nine members in each committee was increased to 11 upon lobbying of the OSCE Parliamentary Ad-Hoc committee for Kosovo. The OSCE successfully ensured to place a member of the respective parties in the committees. Another satisfactory result is constituted by the fact that minority representatives chair four of the 17 Assembly Committees. The Committee on the Rights and Interests of Communities is of particular relevance and has the right to review all legislation under discussion by the Assembly, to ensure that legislation does not infringe on the rights and interests of the various ethnic communities. Therefore, this committee is a powerful organ to ensure that discrimination is avoided. Minority community representatives also chair the three committees for Finance and Economy, Health, and Labour and Social Welfare. In order to accommodate all ethnic communities some posts are given on a rotating basis.
However, the responsiveness of prominent and senior representatives in central political structures to their respective constituencies remains an issue of serious concern. Following a review of the institutions of Government authority throughout Kosovo, OSCE finds that the inadequate readiness of the elected officials to accept responsibility towards their electorate and the lack of accountability due to, inter alia, the non-functional committees represents a major obstacle for the meaningful participation of non-majority communities in the political processes.
Compared with the representation of non-majority members of Municipal Assemblies for the period 2000-2002, which consisted of both elected and appointed deputies, it can be concluded that the minority representation in municipal assemblies has dropped for the 2002-2006 mandate. There is therefore a chance that the lower levels of representation of minorities could lead to further disengagement of minority communities in local institutions. The decentralisation or reform of local governance structures may redress the issue, although this will invariably take time to come into reality.
While in the first mandate of the local self-government only five municipalities had a mono-ethnic composition , Kosovo's local self-governance is now facing the existence of 13 mono-ethnic assemblies, including two Kosovo Serb mono-ethnic assemblies in the North. In the remaining 17 municipalities of Kosovo, significant changes in the size of the non-majority representation is notable. With the exception of three municipalities north of the river Ibar and two others in South and East Kosovo , all other assemblies face a decline in the representation of minority communities. In total numbers, the representation in the municipal assemblies of Kosovo was reduced from 181 non-majority deputies down to 110 for the 2002-2006 period.
Given the fact that ethnic community representation in the democratically elected bodies of the local self-government has considerably declined as a result of the Municipal Elections 2002, participatory mechanisms for those non-majority communities within the local governance structures become even more important. As the main instrument to give the legitimate concerns of those communities a voice, UNMIK Regulation 2000/45 on Self-government of Municipalities in Kosovo stipulates the establishment in each of Kosovo's Municipal Assemblies of two mandatory Committees: a Communities Committee and a Mediation Committee (hereafter the Committees). The Committees are necessary mechanisms to facilitate the ethnic communities' participation in the political, cultural, social, and economic life of the municipality. Potentially, while ensuring that rights and interests of the communities living in the municipalities are respected, the Committees also boost communities' confidence and encourage them to engage in power sharing with the ethnic majority.
Throughout the term of the 2000-2002 municipal governments, the ability of the Committees to effectively exercise their role has been impaired by a number of factors that included several uncertainties in the political environment (e.g. Kosovo Serb participation). In addition, different interpretations of the wording of the UNMIK Regulation 2000/45 contributed to slow decision-making in the process of establishing the Committees. According to UNMIK Department of Local Administration, the Committees were to develop their own procedures following the general guidelines contained in UNMIK Regulation 2000/45. As a result of this decentralised approach, the effectiveness of these Committees and the consistency of their decision-making varied from municipality to municipality. Where intense co-operation between local authorities and their international counterparts - such as the LCO and UNMA - existed, Committees were functioning and ethnic communities' concerns were effectively brought to the fore. Where these conditions were not in place, Committees were de facto dysfunctional and inhibited meaningful participation of minority communities in the affairs of the municipality.
A further problem at the level of municipal political structures is quality and legitimacy of representatives of minority communities. As appears to be the case among the Kosovo RAE communities in Prizren and Gjilan/Gnjilane, or among the Kosovo Serb communities in Lipjan/Lipljan and Obiliq/Obilic, there is widespread evidence that representatives do not enjoy the full support of their own communities. Many of the local leaders are self-appointed hence lack a democratic mandate deriving from their constituencies. The problem also applies to the Committees. Without the chance to acquire a stake in the system to articulate their distinct concerns and to seek redress, minority communities will continue to remain alienated from mainstream processes and to believe that they cannot influence outcomes.
To address this problem, UNMIK Office of Community Affairs (OCA) drafted an Administrative Direction on Rules of Procedures for Communities Committees in September 2001, but its finalisation is still pending. In the absence of such a procedural scheme for both Committees, the same problems with their formation are likely to occur throughout the process of the implementation of the 2002 Municipal Elections.
So far, by December 2002, both Committees were in place in only seven municipalities. Since Kosovo's municipalities are newly elected and fitted with a four-year mandate, time appears to be more than ripe to issue those Rules of Procedures for both the Communities and the Mediation Committees.
III. TOLERANCE, RECONCILIATION AND INTERETHNIC DIALOGUE
The last Assessment noted an increase, although small, of dialogue opportunities amongst majority and minority community leaders. It has to be concluded that this trend gained momentum throughout the reporting period, moving from individual and rhetorical statements towards a variety of citizen initiatives progressing in the, albeit slow, reestablishment of relations. The International Community continuously highlighted the importance of public statements from representatives within the PISG to clearly address the issue of interethnic relations. As spontaneous initiatives of inter-ethnic dialogue may also include ordinary interaction between citizens, an increasing number of low-level contacts between neighbours, businessmen, customers and shop-owners have been monitored since the spring of 2002.
Pursuant to the UNMIK/UNHCR Information Framework for IDPs and Receiving Communities, a series of public roundtable discussions to publicly advocate improvements of inter-ethnic relations was aired on local radio stations in the Prizren region, beginning in December 2002. The discussions involve various community leaders, NGO activists, youth, women's organisations and politicians to share their views on IDP return to municipalities in Southern Kosovo. Prizren is notable as a centre of multi-ethnicity, and is also known for its vivid media landscape with a high number of outlets for minority communities. A considerable progress in the work towards normalising interethnic relations has been noted in the strengthening of links between different ethnic youth groups. The "Camping on Tolerance Building" project was successfully implemented in September 2002. Youth representatives of the Bridge Association went through workshops on understanding conflict, and the peaceful transformation of conflict.
The levels of dialogue and co-operation of community members within central and municipal governance structures represents an indicator for the progress of reconciliation and furtherance of common goals. Particular emphasis was laid on the role of municipal representatives in the returns process, as these leaders were in the best position to transmit credible messages that are understood by the local public. Positive statements made by leaders, followed by concrete actions on municipal level, have a powerful impact on the perception of minorities by the receiving majority community.
As illustrated in the Vushtrri/Vucitrn municipality with the returns of Kosovo Ashkaelia, for concrete actions on municipal levels to be effective they must be followed up at the village level in the receiving communities. The first steps to create the conditions for this return were taken in March 2001 when a local Ashkaelia NGO initiated discussions with municipal assembly members, KPC, KPS and the receiving community. The Prime Minister visited the community to support inter-ethnic dialogue and the right to return immediately after the first group returned in April 2002. Despite these preparations, both some of the remaining Kosovo Ashkaelia residents and some of the returnees faced serious harassment and intimidation, indicating a need to greater involve the surrounding majority community in reconciliation efforts.
The MWGs are expected to enhance the involvement of local representatives in the returns process. It is hoped that such involvement will send a signal of tolerance and reconciliation to communities to which these local representatives belong. Unfortunately, so far their contribution has been limited, partly as most of the MWGs were established only during the fall of 2002 and partly since the participation elected municipal officials in many cases has irregular, if at all. As pointed out above, the level and quality of local participation in this process in some instances can be seen as a reflection of the priority given such participation by the UNMIK Municipal Administrator or other such officials.
Mutual interests of community members have proven to be a good starting point for initiatives gearing towards community interaction. The increase in interethnic contacts is most visible in different areas of mass media. Notable examples are the well-developed multi-ethnic Press Club in the eastern region of Gjilan/Gnjilane, which was set up with the help of OSCE, or the growing co-operation of local Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb radio stations. Public broadcasters from Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo agreed to create a Balkans Children TV Network and to produce a joint TV magazine with entries from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania under the theme: "A day in a life of a kid in my region". Another example of innovative activities to foster mutual understanding as a step towards reconciliation is the documentary project Interweaving Lives initiated by OSCE in 2002. The film depicts a realistic picture of the current situation of Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb youth aiming at informing both groups about their conditions of life. Small-scale investments in infrastructure, public services or educational facilities were also catalysts for inter-ethnic co-operation and co-ordination. The Small Investments for Minorities Fund (SIMF), provided by the Government of the Netherlands, followed the recommendation of the last Assessment for a shared benefit between minority and majority communities as a mandatory methodology for assistance.
In the framework of enabling minority members to make informed choices and participate in public affairs, OSCE in co-operation with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems Ltd (IFES) conducted a three-month project to assist the non-Serb minorities of Kosovo voice their concerns and to formulate recommendations for the improvement of municipal services. Over 70 meetings were conducted throughout Kosovo with Bosniak, Croat, RAE, Gorani, and Turkish minority groups. Over 800 people took part in discussions and responded to questionnaires about municipal public services and living conditions. The project arrived at its second phase with regional meetings with representatives of minority communities, aiming at receiving feedback on the survey and formulating recommendations for the municipalities, elected or appointed representatives, and relevant international. Meetings in the other regions followed, and a booklet with concerns of minorities is in production at the time of writing, for use by the new Municipal Assemblies after the last elections to guide their work over the coming years.
The civil society sector in Kosovo has widened its role in the interethnic dialogue process and started to assume significant responsibility in establishing key links across ethnic tensions. A prime example of initiatives for inter-ethnic co-operation and dialogue has been the formation and consolidation of the Civil Dialogue Alternative, a multi-ethnic group of civic actors from Kosovo and Serbia proper initiated by the OSCE in 2002. The enlarging circle of representatives from other civic organisations reflects the groundbreaking potential of this project. Prominent activists for peace, tolerance and the involvement of the civil society in public affairs, such as the former Yugoslav Ambassador to the United States and Mayor of Belgrade, Mr. Zivorad Kovacevic, aim at enhancing inter-ethnic confidence and the creation of conditions for return of displaced persons regardless of their ethnicity.
Another important dimension of the civil society sector is the development of NGOs. Whereas a relatively high number of minority local NGOs exists in Kosovo, most of them are still crucially dependent on international NGOs. Only a few of them have the capacity, the motivation and the long-term perspective to be able to survive without the direct assistance of the international agencies. However, there has been a growth of community initiatives towards tolerance and reconciliation. The network of OSCE initiated Community Centres continued the development of a broadly understood civil society and support for ideas and projects developed by local NGOs. Such centres facilitate networking activities among NGOs, provide meeting space and an internet connection, assist in NGO registration, bring potential donors to the centres and offer a great variety of training sessions and workshops.