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27. January 2020.

Intensive talks between Belgrade and Tirana, as we can see, are yielding results, so that gradually but surely everyone in this region realizes that the Albanians from the southern part of central Serbia are citizens of the Republic of Serbia, which their agreement on joint polling practically confirms. In this way, Zoran Stankovic, the President of the Coordination Body for the Municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, evaluated for the “Politika” daily the decision of the Albanian parties to make a joint list at the upcoming parliamentary elections in Serbia, which was agreed on January 16 in the presence of government officials in Tirana.

The joint list will consist of the Democratic Action Party (PDD), the Alternative for Change, the Democratic Party, the Reform Movement (DPA) and the Democratic Progress Movement, which will operate under one program, while the leaders of these parties expect to have more than two MPs. Mr. Stankovic recalled that so far "most Albanian parties have boycotted the elections and thus lost the opportunity to participate in decision-making in the parliament and other governmental bodies."

"It is necessary for the Albanians to have their representatives who will represent their interests through the governmental institutions of Serbia. During their visits to our country, Edi Rama himself, Iljir Meta and Bujar Nisani, told their compatriots that they were citizens of the Republic of Serbia and that they should solve their demands and problems through the institutions of Serbia. I just believe that the agreement is a confirmation of that position, and I perceive the meeting in Tirana as a desire to encourage them to go to the polls.  Their program principles show that they will advocate the addressing of a wide range of issues, which indicates that they are aware of the fact that problems are solved by talking and not by a boycott. Also, according to the law, they have every right to organize themselves politically and unite,” Mr. Stankovic said.

Mr. Stankovic also said that "it does not matter where the talks were held and where the agreement was signed, but the content and the message to the Republic of Serbia is important." Asked whether the signing of the agreement in Tirana and not in Pristina meant bringing Kosovo's provisional institutions closer together, Mr. Stankovic said "essentially, Pristina has never been a place where the Albanian political leaders from the southern part of central Serbia have agreed on any issue".

"I emphasize that it is the view of the international community that the Albanians living in Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja should vote because they are citizens of the Republic of Serbia and thus, together with all the institutions and with their help, ensure a faster development and prosperity for the residents of those municipalities," Mr. Stankovic said.

US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey also visited Bujanovac and Presevo mid-week, who, among others, met with representatives of the two municipalities and PDD and Alternative for Change leaders, Saip Kamberi and Scipri Arifi. Ambassador Godfrey said the aim of his visit was to get acquainted with the situation in Serbia and stressed that dialogue was the best way to solve problems.

Commenting that part of the public, in criticizing the agreement of the Albanian parties, sees in it a growing influence of Tirana, including the "Greater Albania" tendencies, Zoran Stankovic points out that the Republic of Albania should "take care of its compatriots living outside of Albania, as Serbia does, and no one disputes that right."

“The agreement should not be criticized by the public because it is precisely this that shows a positive change in the attitude of the Albanians towards the state and its institutions.  It is important to know that Belgrade is the address for solving problems, improving their position, both the economic one and their rights and freedoms in accordance with the Constitution, laws and conventions on national minorities, and that this is the only way. I am aware that this agreement is interpreted by everyone in their own way, but I personally believe that it contributes to a better understanding,” Mr. Stankovic said.

 Source: “Politika” daily and Coordination Body