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07BELGRADE1641 2007-12-10 17:48:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Belgrade
Cable title:  

South Serbia Fears "Neglect" by Belgrade and the

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DE RUEHBW #1641/01 3441748
R 101748Z DEC 07
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BELGRADE 001641 



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: South Serbia Fears "Neglect" by Belgrade and the
International Community



1. (SBU) According to Serb and Albanian leaders in Southern Serbia,
the central government is neglecting the region's economic and
political needs, and is only focused on the immediate security
issues stemming from a decision on Kosovo. In meetings with
international representatives, at an OSCE commemoration of six years
of working in the region, both sides said that past progress in
police, judicial and local government reform could backslide as
international attention shifted. The security situation is stable,
but interlocutors have noticed an increase in Gendarmerie
activities. Both Albanian and Serb leaders have a mutual interest
in a stable and prosperous Southern Serbia and must decide to
continue working together - and with the central authorities - even
while international focus - and funds - moves elsewhere post Kosovo
status. End Summary.

Belgrade Not Present


2. (SBU) During separate December 6 meetings in the Southern Serbia
town of Bujanovac, Serb and Albanian leaders told the DCM, the OSCE
Ambassador and representatives of other diplomatic missions that
central government authorities had neglected the region and had
shown little commitment to resolving its long-term development
needs. Both sides faulted Belgrade's lack of involvement in the
region, noting that only the Minister for Public Administration and
Local Government (Milan Markovic of the Democratic Party) had
visited the region since the new government was formed in May 2007.
Stojanca Arsic, Serb leader from Bujanovac said local Serbs needed
further support from Belgrade authorities, particularly in regard to
economic development, citing deficiencies in infrastructure and
power supply. Albanian leader Ragmi Mustafa said there also had
been little involvement from central authorities on judicial and
local reforms, saying "we can't have a serious conversation when one
side is not listening." Riza Halimi, the only Albanian Member of
Parliament, said he had tried to raise his concerns with the
government regarding the lack of involvement in the region, but had
received no response.

Southern Serbia Still needs the International Community



3. (SBU) Both Serb and Albanian leaders stressed they needed the
international community's continued involvement in the region, while
voicing concerns that this involvement was waning. The
international community needed to facilitate greater communication
between regional and central authorities, said local DSS Serb
representative Goran Taskovic. Bujanovac DS representative Miodrag
Milkovic singled out the EU, saying that the EU needed to form a
"partnership relationship" with the region. Mustafa said that as
long as there was no international representative on the
government's Coordinating Body for South Serbia, the institution
would be unable to appropriately function. Halimi said that as a
decision on Kosovo neared closer, he hoped that "the region would
not be forgotten during these hard and difficult times."

4. (SBU) Following the Albanian leaders' presentations, DCM noted
that both groups actually agreed on the two main themes, perception
of decreased Belgrade and international community attention. She
was disappointed, however, that both groups continued to focus on
their problems and seek outside assistance rather than working
together to articulate a vision for the future. The UK Ambassador
and Italian DCM reinforced DCM's points. During a follow-on
reception, both Serb and Albanian leaders faulted OSCE for the
organization of separate meetings and said they were both able and
willing to sit at the same table to work on problem-solving and
strategic planning.

Southern Serbia's Security Situation Stable


5. (SBU) While Serbia's military appears to be acting in a
restrained manner, there is little straightforward information
regarding the increased actions of the Gendarmerie in the region.
In a separate December 6 meeting, the Serbian Army's Land Forces
Commander in Nis, Lieutenant General Mladen Cirkovic told the DCM
that the military was prepared to defend Southern Serbia and said he
did not expect the military would be involved in the Kosovo status
solution. Cirkovic said the military was prepared to help the
Serbian Red Cross if there was a refugee crisis post status. He
said the police were involved in dealing with "extremists" in the
Administrative Boundary area and admitted that he had minimal
contact with the Gendarmerie. Requests for the DCM to meet with
the Gendarmerie's regional headquarters were denied, citing busy
schedules. Local NGO representatives in Bujanovac told the DCM, on
December 6, that there had been an increased presence of the
Gendarmerie in the region over the past several weeks, with

BELGRADE 00001641 002 OF 002

additional paramilitaries deployed and patrolling the areas. Local
leaders stated their concern that any unrest in Kosovo could fuel
the radicals in both ethnic communities in Southern Serbia, leading
to a more polarized political situation.



6. (SBU) While the central government's neglect of Southern Serbia
merits attention, complaints by local leaders that the international
community is disengaging from the region appears driven by a concern
that the region will be forgotten once Kosovo status is determined.
Although the international community remains engaged, local leaders
need to facilitate further cooperation among themselves to
capitalize upon previous reforms and to prevent backsliding. The
two ethnic communities have voiced and shown their willingness to
work together on issues of mutual importance, such as economic
growth, and need to engage central authorities as a unified front.
Post will continue to assure local leaders that we are engaged and
watching Southern Serbia during this tense period to make certain
that there is no "spillover" from a decision on Kosovo. Post will
also encourage central authorities to take a more proactive role in
working with local leaders to assure the region's continued
political stability and future economic development. End Comment.