There was almost no return of Serbs to Pristina in the last 20 years, who mostly sold their apartments and houses, reports RTK2.
Prior to the conflict in 1999, about 40,000 Serbs lived in the city, who left the city after the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement, which had stopped the NATO bombing of Serbia and agreed the withdrawal of the Serbian army from Kosovo, creating conditions for the return of almost a million Kosovo Albanians who were expelled from Kosovo by force, manly to North Macedonia and Albania, writes RTK2.
According to some information, about 30 Serbs, mostly elderly people, live in the Kosovo capital today. Nevertheless, over 1,000 Serbs, who are employed in various Kosovo and international institutions and organizations, are moving around the city daily.
Uros Staletovic, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Communities and Returns in the Kosovo Government, wrote in a written statement to the RTK2, that Kosovo institutions received little request for the return of Serbs to Pristina in the past two decades.
“There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest reasons are primarily usurped property and security,” explains Staletovic.
In the reply, RTK2 writes, is noted that a few months after the Serbs from Pristina were displaced, there was a greater interest in return.
“As time passed, the interest was smaller, precisely because of the above problems,” the Ministry of Communities and Return said.
It is also said that those who were interested in returning to Pristina were mostly people who were conducting a court dispute in dealing with property ownership problems that were previously social property and given for use.
“As an institution dealing with the issue of the return of displaced persons, we would be very pleased if there would be significant changes in the future on this issue and we are ready to provide support to those who want to return to Pristina, but we repeatedly noted that the issue of return does not depend only on the Ministry of Communities and Returns, but from all the institutions that need to help this process in a more serious way,” concluded the Ministry in a written statement to RTK2.
After the formation of the first post-war Kosovo institutions, a group of Serbian intellectuals decided to engage politically in order to fight for greater rights of their people.
Among them were Rada Trajkovic and Randjel Nojkic, both from Pristina.
Former deputy in the Assembly of Kosovo and a good connoisseur of political circumstances, Rada Trajkovic, estimates that there was never a political will to start the process of returning Serbs to Pristina.
“There is no inclusiveness of Serbs in institutions in Pristina, you have them only in central institutions, they come to sessions and return to their places of residence. There is no intention or good will for the Serbs to return to Pristina. Everywhere in the world in big cities is given a whole area to some nations, you have a Chinese quarter, Italian, Albanian … why the Serbs in Pristina would not have their own neighborhood, where they will have a school, a kindergarten because the language barrier is a reality. This would be the basis for the return of Serbs to the city, where they always lived,” Trajkovic says.
She notes that in Pristina only survives the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), which preserves the cultural identity of the Serbs.
“But in institutions in Pristina, such as Post Office, Power-distribution, you do not have Serbs, that’s the problem,” Trajkovic points out, adding that the project of returning Serbs to Pristina would be understood by young Albanians as a deprivation of rights to work, alluding to the high unemployment among Albanians.
Trajkovic estimates that, after the entry of the NATO forces, “ethnic cleansing of Serbs, who have never come back” was carried out in Pristina, writes RTK2.
Trajkovic also notes to RTK2 that the crimes against Serbs occurred just after the international community came to Kosovo.
“There were killing, kidnapping, expulsion, the complete disappearance of Serbs from Pristina. Thus, the Serbs left all public institutions, this was emptying of state institutions and private apartments and houses. We have signed the formation of local self-governments in the Serbian enclaves with Koushner, because the Serbs who went to Pristina to finish something were killed,” Trajkovic says.
And Randjel Nojkic reminds that after the first parliamentary elections in Kosovo, there were 22 MPs in the Assembly, who tried to convince the people that life in Pristina was possible. Nevertheless, he says, the wrong policy at a high level was guided, because of which the Serbs lost hope, year by year, that conditions for return to Pristina would ever be created.
“Neither Belgrade nor Pristina had the sense to create the conditions for the return of Serbs in the capital city of Kosovo. I spent one year living in Pristina, in the port of the church of St. Nicholas. There were police officers, who guarded the building all the time,” says Nojkic.
He also believes that the Serbs in Pristina cannot be relieved of fear, which makes it almost impossible to return to the Kosovo capital.
“The moment when conditions are created for young generations to come to Pristina freely, when there is a desire among young generations to get to know life where there are no Serbs, an initiative may be launched to return to Pristina”, assesses Nojkic.
All these years in the church of St. Nicholas in Pristina, live one of the priests, with his family.
Otherwise, in the territory of the Kosovo municipality of Gracanica, institutions relocated from Pristina, financed from the budget of the Republic of Serbia, are functioning, such as health and education institutions, municipal bodies, the Employment Agency, the Center for Social Work and the Post of Serbia, reported RTK2.