Prizren, 20 September 2008 – On Tuesday, 16 September 2008, the Center for Integration of the Minorities in Prizren organized a public debate on the occasion of the elaboration of a new statute for the Prizren municipality. The debate was attended by about sixty persons, among which the deputy minister for local government, Dr. Raif Elezi, the MP, Ms Spresa Murati, the president of the Prizren municipal council, Mr. Nijaz Krueziu, and his deputy, Mr. Cemal Kurtisi, who comes from the minority communities, Mr. Erdzan Spat, spokesmen of the Prizren municipality, Mr. Ymer Berisha, from the municipal council of minority communities, NGO representatives and representatives of all the minorities living in Prizren. The debate specially focused on articles of the statute referring to the issues which are of particular relevance to the minority communities.

After a discussion on article 7 of the statute, which refers to the municipal emblem and symbols, the majority of the participants expressed the view that the Statute commission should be conveyed the message, that it should be written in three languages, i.e., Albanian, Bosnian and Turkish, on the emblem, “Komuna-Opcina-Belediye”, and that the emblem should not bear the house of the Prizren League on it and the text “1878 Prizren”.

There were also remarks regarding article 8 of the Statute, which refers to the text which should be written on the municipal stamp and marks. It was suggest that the part which says “Serbian-Bosnian” should be changed, and that the original text should be: “The text of the stamps of the municipality and of its organs are in Albanian, Serbian, Bosnian and Turkish”. There should be a comma between the words Serbian and Bosnian and not a hyphen, as Serbian and Bosnian are two different languages, the hyphenated word Serbian-Bosnian misrepresents this situation.  When minority languages were discussed, it was also suggested, in conclusion, that one article of this paragraph or in another article of the statute should mention the Romany language, because the Roma community is not mentioned in any single article of the statute, of which there are 110, despite the fact it constitutes a considerable number of the population of Prizren.

Article 15 of the Statute regulates the conclusion of agreements concerning the cooperation between the Prizren municipality and other municipalities. Here, it was suggested, that one of the paragraphs should foresee the possibility for minority communities to conclude cooperation agreements with their kin state, in line with the statute.

Because it was considered that the question of the representation of the minority communities has been solved in good way in the new Statute, with the exception for the Roma community, it was nevertheless requested that one article of the statute should foresee a mechanism to ensure the representation of the minority communities in the decision-making bodies, including the Municipal Assembly, in case that they do not get their own councilor at the local elections.

At the end of the discussion, there was a lot of discussion about the office for local communities, which has been established on the basis of UNMIK regulation 2000/45, which is still in force today. However, this office is not mentioned in the new statute, because it is not mentioned in the law on local government, which does not foresee, but also does not forbid the creation of such an office in municipalities where there is a large number of representatives of minority communities.

All the participants in the discussion on the necessity of an office for local communities agreed that it is necessary to insist on the remarks and proposals and to submit them in writing to the municipality bodies, so that this office continues to function, because it has played an essential role in addressing and resolving to the problems of minority communities. It was also said that the number of employees in this office should be increased so that it is actually able to attend to the needs of the communities.

The public debate culminated in the statement that all the recommendations and suggestions on the proposal for a new Prizren municipal statute should be sent to the relevant bodies.

Nexhip Menekshe

Courtesy translation: Romano Them