During the last decade the Republic of Serbia (Serbia) has gone through major political changes. In 2006 and 2008 Montenegro and Kosovo declared their independence from the Republic of Serbia while at the same time Serbia started EU accession talks with Brussels. Besides many remaining political, economic and social challenges Serbia has made some progress in the fields of civil society and democratic governance. A number of important laws such as the Law on Local Self-Government and the Anti-Discrimination Law have been issued. While Serbia has adopted the bill of the autonomous province of Vojvodina which promotes the decentralization process, it has not accepted the declaration of independence by Kosovo and the relations between these two states and their communities remain highly problematic. Additionally, the unsettled status of Kosovo is determining the political debate to that extend that other issues don’t receive the attention they need. In this regard South Serbia can be named as a region that faces challenges in its multi-ethnic relations and its institution-consolidation.
As one of the major challenges of sustainable peace in Serbia, CSSP has identified the relations among the various ethnic communities living in Serbia (primarily the Albanian community in South Serbia and the Roma community). Currently these communities constitute parallel societies and discussions on the political level about a territorial exchange of South Serbia with Northern Kosovo are contributing to an insecure and disintegrative situation.
Additionally, even though a Coordination Body for the municipalities of Bujanovac, Medvedja and Presevo was established, decision making processes concerning community issues between the South Serbian municipalities and all relevant ministries in Belgrade currently depend largely on a handful of political leaders with good will, who negotiate ad hoc decisions in meetings which are mostly not open to the public. The approach to policy making between South Serbia and Belgrade can thus be described as an ad hoc bargaining, with limited output and connected to individual politicians. This approach carries the risk, that after this election cycle, the negotiations between Belgrade and South Serbia need to be completely revamped, thereby putting the achievements made in this legislative period at risk and constraining sustainable political processes.
CSSP’s approach to conflict resolution in Serbia is twofold. On the one hand CSSP is concentrating on the integration of the different communities in Bujanovac. On the other hand CSSP is supporting the amelioration of communication between the local municipalities of South Serbia and the relevant ministries on the central level.
Therefore, in the municipality of Bujanovac CSSP promotes political integration and inter-community coexistence through building professional capacity in negotiation, trust-building, and diversity management. This involves a series of interactive professional trainings, joint meetings, consultations and confidence-building measures.
Additionally, CSSP is working on the development of sustainable and transparent communication channels between the central and local institutions relevant for the integration of the municipalities of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja. CSSP focuses here on the Working Group of Political and Social Integration of the Coordination Body on the local level and the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and the Ministry of Local Self-Government on central level. In order to achieve the goal above CSSP developed a simultaneous bottom up and top down approach. On the local level CSSP is building capacity in negotiation and strategic planning skills among the members of the Working Group in order to improve their cooperation and to strengthen their joint interest towards the central level. Whereas, on the central level CSSP is lobbying in the state ministries to motivate them to establish long-term institutionalized meetings with the Working Groups of the Coordination Body.
CSSP’s activities in Serbia consist of intra-community as well as inter-community activities that aim at promoting communication and cooperation among the various entities.
On local level intra-community activities in form of bilateral and joint meetings with the leaders of the political parties represented in the municipal assembly in Bujanovac took place.
Inter-community activities took place on local level as well as on central level. During a facilitated joint meeting of the members of the working group coordination among the municipalities of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja was strengthened. On central level, CSSP had bilateral meetings with the representatives of the state ministries and conducted further lobbying among the international community such as the “Friends of South Serbia”, OSCE and EU in order to unfold the necessity of pressuring the state institutions to improve coordination and institutionalized communication between the municipalities of South Serbia and the state level. All activities aimed at strengthening mediation, negotiation and coordination capacities to improve cooperation across communities and thus enforce integration.