By Linda Karadaku
Dozens of Kosovo Serbs who continue to receive salaries from both Pristina and Belgrade will have to face a choice soon, within a matter of weeks.
Serbian officials have asked them to give up salaries from Kosovo institutions, or they will be fired and lose their Serbian salaries. The warning from Goran Bogdanovic, the Serb minister for Kosovo, affects 60 of the 109 local government employees in Mitrovica North who draw salaries from both capitals.
Resistance to the request has already begun. Government employee Aleksandar M., who asked that his last name be withheld because he is not authorised to speak publicly, said he takes both salaries and does not intend to give up either of them. “The minister should first explain where the millions given from the government of Serbia for us in Kosovo disappeared because we never saw those investments,” Aleksandar told SETimes.
Dragan Popovic, executive director of the Policy Centre in Belgrade, says Serbia spends about 500m euros annually in Kosovo. “There are some statements from Serbian politicians that this amount will be decreased in 2012. For now, there is no salary reducing for Kosovo Serbs. Due to the fact that Serbia has no programme budgeting, it is hard to say what is the purpose of the spending,” Popovic told SETimes.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognised by more than 80 nations, including many in the EU. But Belgrade claims that it is responsible for Kosovo, and residents of the Serb-dominated north identify more with Serbia than with Pristina. A non-binding referendum earlier this year showed that a huge majority – more than 99% — disavow government institutions from Pristina in favour of their Serbia counterparts.
Nesa N, another Kosovo Serb who draws double salaries from both Pristina and Belgrade, believes the demand is simple posturing before the May 6th election. “I don’t see it as a bad thing because I am paid for the work I do. I make about 35,000 dinars and 200 euros, which means that both salaries do not give me more than about 500 euros per month in total. Bogdanovic should come and live in our conditions and then talk,” Nesa told SETimes.
A court ruling in 2010 reduced salaries for Kosovo Serbs. The Serb Constitutional Court ruled that some 45,000 Serbs employed in Kosovo by institutions financed from Serbia’s government not receive any more of the so-called “additional payment” for working in Kosovo. The decision affected doctors, teachers, judges, and administration employees.
“Of course, for people who work in institutions both salaries are the best solutions, but for Serbian tax payers it is huge issue which should be solved as soon as possible,” Popovic said.