Bucharest, 21 April 2008 – The Constitution of Kosovo, world’s youngest state is closely kindling interest among the local ethnics, including the Turkish community.The new Constitution will determine the third official language of Kosovo to be Turkish or not. It is sensitive problem for Kosovo leaders too, because Turkey is one of the first world’s countries recognized the independence of Kosovo and supported it. Draft Constitution was sent to the Parliament last week. The document consisted of 40 particles and 160 paragraphs drawn up by the special parliamentary commission. It has reflected the independence and sovereignty of Kosovo based on the parliamentary administration.
The Serbian community has refused the document signed by Mahir Yagchilar, leader of Turkish community and member of the Constitutional commission. The new constitution will come into force on June 15. However Turkish community is not satisfied with the document, because the Turkish language was not included in the official languages of the country. The new Constitution declares only Albanian and Serbian as the official languages according to the Ahtisaari’s plan. Pristina officials paid no heed to the proposals of Kosovo Democratic Turkish Party (KDTP) politically represented the Turkish community and non-governmental organizations on this issue. Enis Karvan, member of Kosovo Parliament from KDTP said he would vote against the draft Constitution. “Proposals forwarded on behalf of the party and Turkish community on the 5th paragraph of the Constitution, have not been taken into consideration. Therefore as a Turkish member of the Parliament I will vote against the new Constitution”.
Existence of Kosovo Turks has not officially been registered until the 1951 population census. Despite mass migration of local Turks to Turkey since 1953, 33 thousand Turks have been registered in Kosovo during the 1961 census. Turkish community constitutes one per cent of Kosovo population to Kosovo Statistic Office as of 2005. Turkish community mostly populated Prizren (15-29%) and Mitrovitsa (14%) towns of Kosovo. Mamusa village in the northern Prizren is only residential area mostly settled by the Turkish community. Disputed 5th paragraph approves Albanian and Serbian as the official languages, but Turkish language will be used in the municipalities settled by Turks alongside with the official languages. Although Turkish was the third official language in Kosovo within the 1974 Constitution of re-organized autonomous province and this situation continued until the annulment of the autonomy in 1984.
The United Nations Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) established as a result of the peacekeeping operations carried out in Kosovo in 1999, gradually substituted the previous status of the Turkish language by the regional one. According to decision #24 of UNMIK in 1999, it was announced that the Albanian, Serbian and English languages would be used as official languages. The similar course was continued in the temporary constitution of Kosovo adopted in 2001. Turkish community imposed boycott, as the first civilian documentation was not conducted in Turkish and this action was supported by Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo. After a long struggle, compromise was reached by head of Kosovo’s Parliament, Prime Minister and Chairman of Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo on August 23, 2006. Decision was made that the Turkish language had official status in the municipalities settled by Turks. Besides, on the proposal of Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo, it was agreed to give passports in the official language of municipalities in the law on travel documents.
In the municipalities, where Turkish is the official language (Gjilan, Vuchitrn, Prizren and Pristina), passports will be written in the Turkish language. The constitutional amendment suggested by Mahir Yagcilar, Kosovo’s Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Chairman of Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo, envisages official status to the Turkish language in the municipalities compactly settled by Turkish community, right to get education, publish newspaper and journal in their mother tongue. Former member of Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo Aysel Gas said signature campaign had started against the attempts to eliminate official status of the Turkish language.
“There is great interest in the campaign. After the signatures are collected they will be sent to nongovernmental organizations, political bodies, media outlets and other organizations”, she said.
Though Turkey is silently observing the divergence between Albanian majority and Turkish minority in Kosovo, it is natural that Ankara has a delicate position on this issue, because the Turkish language has official status only in Turkey and un-recognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. If the peace negotiations aiming to establish a unique federal state in Cyprus Island are successful, the issue on including the Turkish language among 20 official languages of the European Union will be urgent. On the other hand, Kosovo needs great support of Turkey.