Dragas, 22 March 2008 – Serbian Minister Dragan Djilas visited Kosovo’s Gorani community Friday, promising Belgrade’s support to the mainly Muslim, Serbian-speaking minority.
Djilas, the Minister for National Investment and from President Boris Tadic’s Democrat Party donated money and computers to a Gorani school in the village of Milke, just outside the main municipal town of Dragas.
“The Serbian government has a responsibility to provide better conditions for these people who suffer just because they haven’t rejected their identity. They want to be citizens of Serbia and we have got to help them,” Djilas said.
There are just 6,000 ethnic Goranis living in the very south of Kosovo. Being Serbian speakers has made them vulnerable to discrimination from Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority although in the past their Muslim faith and distinct ethnicity has also led to hostility from Serbs.
Djilas promised government scholarships for the best students of more than 100 schoolchildren attending the secondary school in Milke. School director Nadzmidin Destani said the donation will be used to build new toilets and modernise the playground.
“We hope that thanks to the donations from Serbia, we will survive and remain in Kosovo,” Zecir Zurapi, Gorani community representative, told local Serb radio KIM.
Gorani have generally remained loyal to Belgrade since the United Nations administration was set up in Kosovo in 1999.
Many schools have maintained the curricula as set by the Serbian Ministry of Education, while others have followed the Kosovo Government Plan.
The Kosovo Government in Pristina has previously suspended several Gorani teachers who refuse to comply with their teaching syllabuses although buoyed by funding from Belgrade many have continued to work illegally.
Djilas who is running for the role of Belgrade Mayor in the May 11 elections, is the first minister to visit Kosovo’s Gorani community since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17.