Kosovo’s Albanian-led interim regime has issued a “Plan B” for administrative decentralization following the recent rejection of the original pilot project by local Serb leaders. Kosovo’s minister for local self-government, Lutfi Haziri, said Serb objections had been taken into account, compromising on the boundaries of internal districts. The government gave Serb political leaders until Aug. 10 to say whether they will accept the revised plan. If they reject it, the government will revert to its original pilot project. But Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of the Serbian Lists for Kosovo and Metohija, said that Serb representatives do not recognize any deadline for reaching their decision. (RFE/RL Newsline, Aug. 10) Kosovo’s government is under international pressure to do more for minority rights and democracy before a decision on whether “final status” talks can start this year. A major issue is decentralising power to Serbs, who live in enclaves guarded by NATO-led peacekeepers. (Reuters, Aug. 10)
Meanwhile, Serbian authorities in Belgrade are returning the bodies of 84 ethnic Albanians killed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war—the largest single return of war dead in the province. The bodies, exhumed from a mass grave on the grounds of a police training center just outside Belgrade, will be handed over to their families and UN officials in the border area of Merdare, 25 miles north of Kosovo’s provincial capital, Pristina.
The remains are believed to be those of ethnic Albanian civilians killed by Serb forces during the war and removed from Kosovo in an apparent cover-up attempt by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Authorities in Serbia said that, out of 836 bodies of Kosovo Albanians found in mass graves in Serbia, 566 had been identified and nearly 500 returned to their families. The remaining 270 bodies are expected to be identified by the end of the year. Families in Kosovo have repeatedly demanded that all the war dead exhumed be returned immediately. Nearly 3,000 people remain still listed as missing. An international team is conducting DNA analysis from bone samples to match remains with the relatives of missing people. (AP, Aug. 10, via Kosova Report)
See our last report on the still-simmering Balkan crisis.