It is with great disbelief and disappointment that we react to the news that dozens of NGOs from Kosovo, our partners and friends, wrote to the European Commission to protest the proposed changes of the EU Directive to include Serbian Coordination Directorate in the visa-free regime.

The reaction to the proposal, which would greatly improve lives of Kosovo Serbs is symptomatic of a growing gap between the communities and continually shrinking space for any kind of social dialogue, including among the most progressive parts of the society. Had any Kosovo Serb or a person knowledgeable of the matter been consulted about this, they would have explained that the Coordination Directorate was an office established in 2009 by Serbian MIA. It issues passports for the citizens of Serbia residing in Kosovo, as well as Serbian citizens displaced from Kosovo and maintaining the displaced status. The Coordination Directorate was established at the behest of the EC who feared ‘potential for illegal migration’ to disallow the application of the visa-free regime for the citizens of Serbia to citizens of Serbia residing, or formerly residing in Kosovo.

We would like to remind everyone that Kosovo Law on Citizenship allows for dual citizenship and recall many international representative’s statements that ask for the respect of the fact that many Kosovo citizens, not just Kosovo Serbs have dual citizenship and should be allowed to enjoy all rights and obligations related to it. This means that they should ‘participate and the social life of Serbia’.

Arguments that a visa-free regime for CD passports hinders Kosovo Serb integration are false and insulting. No more Kosovo Serbs will be integrated if they are equipped with Kosovo passports than the number that already have Kosovo citizenship. This is because a passport cannot be obtained without an ID card and proof of citizenship. In other words, a person who gets a new passport is already equipped with citizenship and is thus already integrated.

Kosovo Serb, and other non-majority community issues ensue much before they become eligible to hold a Kosovo passport, at the moment of civil registration. There are still people residing in Kosovo who due to the non-recognition of the Serbian civil registry regards (of birth, death and marriage) as well as the non-recognition of judicial decisions regarding adoption or divorce, cannot register in the Kosovo civil registry and become citizens.

This is the problem Kosovo’s MIA partially solved in 2018 but not completely. In effect, this means that there are still people who permanently reside in Kosovo but cannot obtain ID cards, and by extension, passports. This is a true hindrance to integration, not the incentives or lack thereof to obtain a Kosovo passport.

Initiatives, such as these, coming from organizations that have spent almost a decade raising voices against the unfair isolation of Kosovo citizens, essentially ask the same for a very small number of people who either wish to keep their displacement status in Serbia or cannot obtain Kosovo citizenship, will not help convince the Kosovo Serb community their rights will be defended in Kosovo, including by the organizations that promote human rights, social inclusion and reconciliation.

Integration is a much more nuanced and sensitive process and requires trust-building measures and support from different layers of society. Unfortunately, the reaction of dozens of NGOs shows that the EC’s criticism of the Government of Kosovo and its failure to communicate to the Kosovo Serb community is starting to apply to civil society as well.

  1. New Social Initiative – Nova društvena inicijativa
  2. Institute for Territorial Economic Development
  3. Ngo Aktiv
  4. Advocacy Center For Democratic Culture
  5. CSD – Communication for Social Development
  6. Avenija
  7. Center for Social Initiatives CSI
  8. Crno-beli svet CBS
  9. Center for Affirmative Social Actions – CASA
  10. Center for Peace and Tolerance Gracanica
  11. Alternative Cultural Center Gracanica
  12. Santa Marija
  13. NVO Omladinska Parteska Aktivnost
  14. Institute for Public Research IJI
  15. Network for Civic Activism
  16. Alternativna
  17. RTV Kim, Čaglavica

NGO AKTIV Mitrovica

NGO AKTIV Priština