Backing for Serb institute

September 8, 2006

A Kosovo-Albanian member of the negotiating team on the future status of Kosovo has stated that the Serbian minority population has the right to its own Serbian-taught university.

The statement by Kosovar politician Enver Hoxhaj is, in effect, a recognition of the de facto situation. In December 2002, the UN Mission in Kosovo granted an operating licence and accreditation to the Serb-language university in Kosovsko-Mitrovica, northern Kosovo. It was established by Serb faculty members fleeing the University of Kosovo in Pristina.

But Mr Hoxhaj's statement does not mean that the future of the Kosovsko-Mitrovica University (KMU) is settled.

In an interview with the Albanian-language newspaper Koha Ditore , he says that there are still major disagreements on how the university should operate, not only between the Kosovar-Albanians and the Serbs, but also between the Serbs and the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo (Unosek).

One area of disagreement relates to the syllabus. The Kosovar-Albanian side considers that this should be worked out by joint commissions of the Serbian Ministry of Education in Belgrade and the Kosovo Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Pristina.

But Unosek's view is that Pristina should approve the syllabus worked out by the Serbs. According to Mr Hoxhaj, there have been "hesitations" about the idea of co-operation between the two ministries.

A second area of dispute is over the role of the local authorities. The town of Mitrovica straddles the River Ibar, with ethnic Albanians on one side and Serbs on the other.

The Serbs were pressing for the establishment of more municipalities in Serbian-populated areas. The Kosovar-Albanians were unwilling to agree to this.

Unosek considered that Mitrovica municipality should have greater powers over education - and in the running of the KMU. The Serbian negotiators wanted the university to be run by local Serbs and the ministry in Belgrade.

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