By Linda Karadaku
Kosovo’s Privatisation Agency is planning to sell two socially-owned enterprises in the Serb-dominated northern part of the country, a plan that is sparking reactions from Serbia. PPT, a joint bearings factory and Lola-Fot, a machinery parts factory producer, both in the municipality of Leposavic in the north, are the two companies, which employ mostly Serbs.
The Serbian Office for Kosovo announced on Wednesday (August 22nd) that it has asked Serbia’s Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of all of the privatisations carried out in Kosovo. Belgrade-based B92 reported that “the request refers to all privatisations carried out from 1999 to date.”
“You cannot buy something that was stolen. It has to be determined first to whom it belongs and only after it has been determined we can think about privatisations. Privatisation in Kosovo was done mono-ethnically, and Serbs did not take part in them and it is simply unsustainable,” Aleksandar Vulin, the head of the office, told the media.
The agency said, however, that it has exclusive rights to privatise the socially-owned property in Kosovo based on the country’s constitution.
“[We have] privatised enterprises and socially-owned properties before … in Serb-inhabited areas in Kosovo,” Ylli Kaloshi, a spokesperson for the agency, told SETimes. It has privatised property in Inex-Brezovica, the Priluzha farm and the Kristal factory. The agency also opened offices in Serb majority areas like Sterpce, Leposavic and Gracanica.
“These companies are made from Serbian money, and the new government should prevent Kosovo authorities [from] appropriating it,” Oliver Ivanovic, the former secretary of the former ministry for Kosovo in Serbia, told SETimes.
“It’s not true that the Serb workers have not been allowed to participate in the privatization process of the socially-owned enterprises. On the contrary, the agency has encouraged the workers of the socially-owned enterprises, without distinction, to gather forces and participate in the privatisation tenders,” Kaloshi told SETimes.
Arta Gosalci, a spokesperson for the agency, told reporters that the authority of the agency is recognised by all the citizens of Kosovo, “including those of the Serb community, who are not only members of the staff of the agency, but also buyers.”
Kaloshi told SETimes that it is the agency’s legal and constitutional obligation to privatise socially-owned enterprises in the entire territory of Kosovo, including their assets and lands.
Ibrahim Rexhepi, director of the Kosovo Centre for Strategic and Social Researches, said that according to the law for the Kosovo Agency for Privatsation, all enterprises in the territory of Kosovo, which until the end of March 1989, were registered as socially-owned enterprises, are under the agency’s responsibility.
“This issue is clear under the law, because the law does not accept the transformations that happened after this date,” Rexhepi told SETimes.
Kosovo has privatised more than 300 socially-owned enterprises, and has gathered over 600 million euros from the sales since the establishment of Kosovo Trust Agency in 2002, which was later transformed into Kosovo Privatisation Agency, after the country proclaimed independence in 2008.
Dusan Janjic, co-ordinator of the Forum for Ethnic Relations in Belgrade, says Kosovo’s plan to privatise in the north is an attempt to solidify its negotiating position in the technical dialogue with Belgrade, which is expected to continue in September.
Although Pristina can formally sell the companies in the north, Janjic told SETimes, problems will arise when the new owners arrive, due to Serbs’ lack of acceptance, and could present a serious security risk.
SETimes correspondent Biljana Pekusic in Belgrade contributed to this report.