One of the most stable findings of the Trend Analysis for the past few years has been the distrust of Kosovo Serbs towards political leaders in Kosovo. Similar to previous years, about 58.7% of respondents from the Serb community in Kosovo claim that they do not trust the people who represent them. When asked to identify political party options or leaders from the Serb community they trust, 87% of respondents did not single out any name on the list as trustworthy. Respondents expressed even less confidence when it came to the political representatives from the Albanian community in Kosovo. Only 1.5% of them cited one of the Albanian leaders as a trusted politician, a percentage which borders with statistical error. Widespread lack of trust of the Kosovo Serbs in political representatives and institutions is one of the main findings of the research “Trend Analysis 2020: Attitudes of the Serb Community in Kosovo”. The research was presented at the same-titled conference, held on 16 December via Zoom platform.
The Analysis presents a research of the attituded of the Serb community in Kosovo on the main socio-political, economic and security developments, conducted by the NGO Aktiv for the sixth year in a row. The results of the Trend Analysis 2020 were presented at the beginning of the conference by Milica Orlović, Head of Aktiv’s Liaison Office in Belgrade. Her presentation was followed by a panel discussion partaken by Miodrag Milićević, Executive Director of Aktiv, Stefan Surlić, Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and Milena Zdravković, Member of the Municipal Assembly in Gračanica/Graqanice. The discussion was moderated by Ognjen Gogić, Head of NGO Aktiv’s Office in Pristina.
During his presentation, Miodrag Milićević underlined that despite the fact Aktiv had been conducting such research for years and recording negative trends within the Serb community, institutional response to these problems failed to exist. There is a lack of political will of the key decision makers to actively engage in finding adequate responses to the problems of the Serb community, ignoring them instead. Milićević expressed moderate optimism about the dialogue being restored after two-year suspension, as this created the possibility of returning the problem solving into the framework of negotiating process. However, he stated that the negotiating process itself should be moved from Brussels to Belgrade and Pristina at one point, in order to bring the dialogue closer to the parties. Milićević sees direct dialogue on the ground as the right way to put the negative trends appearing in the research on the agenda and to tackle them. He believes the research indicate that the citizens are generally dissatisfied with the work of institutions and with the way institutions treat them. As he noted, the Government of Kosovo was consistently recording the lowest level of trust among the Kosovo Serbs, while the trust in Albanian politicians appeared at the level of statistical error. As he said, politicians in Kosovo must recognize general discontent of the members of the Serb community and find the way to initiate the process of internal dialogue which would improve trust among the communities.
Milena Zdravković pointed out that the research did not sufficiently cover the part of the Serb population that was most exposed to discrimination. According to her, those are the Serbs in Pomoravlje/Anamorave, as well as from other non-majority areas such as Vučitrn/Vushtrri, Obilić/Obiliq, Klina/Kline, Istok/Istog, Orahovac/Rahovec Peć/Peja, Lipljan/Lipjan, Kosovo Polje/Fushe Kosove… They represent the most endangered part of the Serb population in Kosovo and their inclusion would have made results of the research more relevant but also more pessimistic.
Trend Analysis has shown that almost half of the respondents from Serb community do not see themselves in Kosovo or plan to leave Kosovo once an opportunity arises. Among respondents aged 18 to 29, almost 70% demonstrates desire to leave Kosovo. The high percentage of young people wanting to leave Kosovo, as well as the trend of spontaneous disappearance of Serb community in Kosovo, comes as no surprise to Milena Zdravković. According to her, commonality of these processes lies in distrust. Political elites do not have sufficient level of understanding for the needs of their community, that is, decision makers and those who are in power do not listen to the voices of ordinary people. There is a lack of internal dialogue with people who can offer the most realistic solutions, which generates mistrust in institutions.
Milena Zdravković also explains the widespread lack of trust of Kosovo Serbs in various political actors by the fact that many promises remained unfulfilled. An example is non-formation of the Community/Association of Serb Municipalities, which 58% of respondents believe will not be formed. Distrust is also affected by the fact that there is a lack of Serbs working in the institutions, lack of information in Serbian language, as well as passivity and non-reaction regarding lack of implementation and breach of laws that protect the rights of the Serb community. According to her, all of this cause migration of young people. As she warns, young, able-bodied and intellectually rich people are leaving and only few of them may return.
Stefan Surlić singled out the fact that security challenges were still a topic as a devastating research finding. More than 20 years after the war in Kosovo, there is still a minority community which sees security as a problem. This outcome, according to him, represents a failure of both, the authorities in Pristina and the international community. Surlić finds the high percentage of respondents who want to leave Kosovo worrisome. Regarding the findings that 60% of respondents cites lack of minority rights, political instability and personal security as reasons for leaving, Surlić believes that none of these should still be an issue 20 years since the conflict.
Surlić noted that there was a gap between the high institutional and low socio-political integration of the Serb community. Therefore, he believes that the Albanian leaders should initiate an internal dialogue in Kosovo. He also reminds that a large number of Serbs in Community/Association of Serb Municipalities, as a form of autonomy, see their security and chance for survival in Kosovo. In that regard, he asks leaders in Pristina what kind of a threat the Community/Association of Serb Municipality, a form of autonomy for a population making up 5 to 8 percent, would represent to Kosovo society which is in fact monoethnic, with Albanians making up 90% of the population.
The research “Trend Analysis 2020: Attitudes of Serb Community in Kosovo” was conducted thanks to the financial support of the Kosovo Open Society Foundation (KFOS).