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30. November 2020.

Belgrade - Regardless of the fact that political leaders of the Albanians did not wish to resume the talks on the seven-point plan, we are still resolving the issues that are important to the citizens of these three municipalities, stated Zoran Stankovic, the President of the Coordination Body.

In addition to the regular budget, the municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja every year receive from the state of Serbia additional financial assistance for their regular functioning in the total amount of around two million euros, which is distributed proportionally to these three local self-governments. The President of the Coordination Body, Prof. Zoran Stankovic, PhD, underscored this fact for the "Politika" daily while he talked about the allocations of the state for the development of those multiethnic environments, in which a part of the population consists of the Albanians.

Despite that, the local Albanian parties in Bujanovac, after this year's elections, stopped the previous practice of running the municipality together with representatives of the Serbs and formed a mono-ethnic government. Then, they proclaimed the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania, Gent Cakaj, an honorary citizen of that city and at the same time replaced the remaining two directors from the ranks of Serbs as the heads of the Sports Center and the Library. Mr. Stankovic characterizes such decisions as a provocation that does not contribute to the advance of a multiethnic environment and emphasizes that if the decisions are based on the law, the state will abide by them, otherwise it is known how it will react.

“Tolerance and patience are not the responsibility of only one side or the state, while political leaders have the responsibility for their actions. I think that we are expected to be reasonable and patient in all situations, even in those that cannot be explained rationally, and all in the interest of the state, which is obliged to provide all citizens with peace, freedom, the rule of law, regardless of their religion and national background.  This is our mission and can only be permanently established by the joint action of people who have similar or the same aspirations. When we talk about those three municipalities, I am aware that it is a difficult, but, in my opinion, achievable mission, regardless of the differences, desires and intentions," Mr. Stankovic said.

He assures that the demands of the citizens and political leaders from Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja and the solving of their problems are an everyday topic in the work of state bodies.

“Sometimes these demands are justified, and sometimes they are provocative and unacceptable. The most influential Albanian leaders have been involved in politics and in the running of the local self-governments of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja for years. During all that time, they have closely cooperated and are cooperating with state bodies, they have participated and are participating in the adoption of laws in the Serbian Parliament, they exercise employment rights and all other rights that belong to them by the law ", says the President of the Coordination Body for the Municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja.

"We were not surprised by the formation of the mono-ethnic government, we knew that it would happen, but we abided by the applicable law, which says that local self-governments have the right to autonomy, which means that they decide for themselves," Mr. Stankovic adds.  

“There was great applause for and support in our environment, among other things, to the expressed views that the Albanians in our country are discriminated against! This is really something I cannot discuss if the Albanians are the ones who exclusively make up the local self-governments in Presevo and Bujanovac, are educated and informed in their mother tongue, have three members in the Serbian Parliament, make up more than 50 percent of the police in Presevo, receive salaries and pensions like all citizens of Serbia, if they have complete freedom of movement, religion and much more ", Mr. Stankovic said.  

He also reminds us that one of the types of financial assistance that the state provides for Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja are additional financial resources for infrastructure projects on which the municipalities decide independently.

“When in 2013,  the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the seven-point plan for addressing the problems of the Albanians, which the Albanian political leaders from the three municipalities emphasized as the most important ones, the talks were interrupted by the Albanians, because their proposal for the proposed law on the territorial distribution of courts and prosecutor’s offices was not accepted, although they were promised by representatives of the Ministry of Justice that their request would be considered on the basis of the expressed needs and accepted the following year. However, it is not our intention to mete out justice, but the point is to move forward in solving issues. To be quite honest, and regardless of the fact that the political leaders no longer wanted to sit at the table and formally resume the talks, we continued to resolve the issues important to the citizens of these three municipalities," Mr. Stankovic said.

He points out that the position of the Coordination Body is clear and that every citizen has his/her rights, but also that he/she is obliged to abide by the constitution and laws of this country, as well as by the adopted conventions on the rights of national minorities.

“I believe that one day the time will come for us to talk and think about the future, and not constantly about the past. On one hand, it is up to us to do our best to find the right path for all those who live in that area.  That task is very difficult, because someone is always dissatisfied, but it is important that we have plans and a clearly set goal. However, it is unserious to expect that such a relationship can be based on a wish list that should be fulfilled at all costs. Cooperation is not a one-way street. There is good will on our part. The program exists, as well as the projects.  I understand that the speed of solving is slower than the expected one, but things are moving forward and being solved. It is not our intention to compete in who said and did what and when, I want to believe that we are on the mission of improving the living and working conditions of the inhabitants of those municipalities and, of course, of preserving peace, " Mr. Stankovic says..

16,200,200 dinars for Student Scholarships in the Last School Year

The allocations of the state of Serbia for the needs of the inhabitants of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja also include student scholarships, and the Coordination Body points out that it has been providing 6,000 dinars per student for that purpose since 2009. Thus, in the school year 2019-2020, 300 students received scholarships, in the total amount of 16,200,000 dinars. In addition, five generations of students were awarded scholarships, more precisely 68 of those who were enrolled in the faculties in Novi Sad. The scholarships amount to 45,000 dinars each. A study that will show the wishes of young people regarding studying, as well as the needs of the region, is underway, while we are planning to award 10 scholarships for state faculties and two-year post-secondary vocational schools in the Republic of Serbia in the coming period.

“I would especially like to highlight two Albanian female students, who are in the final years of the Medical Faculty in Novi Sad, whose average grades are 9.70 out of 10 and 9.50 out of 10. The two of them did not have any language barriers because they had taken a course in Serbian as a non-mother tongue, which is financed by the Coordination Body with the support of the British Embassy. That is why we will continue to teach Serbian as a non-mother tongue, because integration, which the Coordination Body constantly insists on, is impossible without a basic knowledge of Serbian",  Zoran Stankovic said.

Free Transportation of Students and School Supplies as a Gift    

At the initiative of the director of the "Saint Sava" school in Bujanovac, the Coordination Body set aside the funds for covering transportation costs for the students or for a total of 1,562 students in the municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, so that nine million dinars were provided for that purpose in 2019.  

“Also, we have been working on the project "Our City, Our Schools" for five years in a row, while the children have been to Switzerland. I am especially proud of the event that the children from Bujanovac and Presevo prepared for the children from the Center for the Protection of Infants, Children and Youth. Everything happened in the Center two days before the New Year. Children from Presevo and Bujanovac had worked on three fairy tales and performed them in both Albanian and Serbian. We provided the children from the Center with New Year packages, which were handed out to them by the children from Presevo and Bujanovac," the Coordination Body’s employees stated.

They also say that every year they try to help the most vulnerable persons, to whom one-off financial assistance is paid, while the amount depends on the number of users who need it. Last year, 486 persons in the three municipalities received financial assistance. Starting in 2009, the first-graders receive school supplies and backpacks as a gift every September 1. Last year alone, 2,868,000 dinars were set aside for that purpose.

Assistance Provided to Businessmen and Jobs to Healthcare Workers

This year, as well as in the previous eight years, with the exception of 2018, the Coordination Body conducted a call for the allocation of non-refundable funds to small and medium-sized enterprises from the municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja. This year, 30 million dinars were awarded to 13 companies that had met the requirements of the call. One of the requirements for the beneficiaries of non-refundable funds is to employ at least two workers in their companies, which was also a requirement in all previous calls.

“More than 300 million dinars in non-refundable funds have been awarded to small and medium-sized companies over the eight-year period and almost the same number of people has been employed", the Coordination Body said.

As the Coordination Body says, it is very important that since the beginning of the corona virus pandemic and according to the needs of the Health Centers, 21 healthcare workers have been employed in Bujanovac and 25 healthcare workers and one porter in Presevo. In the previous period, the Coordination Body also ensured the functioning of the Outpatient Maternity Hospital in Presevo and helped construct the building of the Subotica Faculty of Economics Department in Bujanovac. Also, the Coordination Body’s Offices in Presevo and Bujanovac assist the citizens with the process of having their university degrees recognized.  

Source: “Politika” daily and Coordination Body