Viewing cable 08PRISTINA498
Title: KOSOVO: STRPCE STABLE, BUT TENSE AS PRESSURE FROM

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08PRISTINA4982008-09-23 09:35:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Pristina
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PRISTINA 000498 
 
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/22/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PINR KV UNMIK
SUBJECT: KOSOVO: STRPCE STABLE, BUT TENSE AS PRESSURE FROM 
PARALLEL GOVERNMENT MOUNTS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Tina S. Kaidanow for Reasons 1.4 (b), (d). 
 
¶1.  (C) Summary.  The Serb-majority municipality of Strpce 
continues - somehow - to function.  The situation is unstable 
in that the parallel government persists in competing with 
legitimate structures, but for the time being the Kosovo 
Police Service and KFOR keep the peace.  The parallel 
government controls most of the municipality's territory and 
continues to assert itself in policing illegal construction, 
as well as through attempts to control cadastral records and 
the municipal building itself.  Strpce's parallel chief civil 
servant (CEO), Radica Grbic, tells us she is unhappy with the 
parallel government, believing that parallel mayor Zvonko 
Mihaijlovic does not understand the predicament confronting 
Strpce's Serbs.  Grbic continues to maintain contact with 
outside parties, including Strpce's Albanians, and she 
conveys messages to Mihaijlovic on our behalf.  UNMIK is 
unable to exert any authority in the municipality, nor is ICO 
an accepted interlocutor on the Serb side, leaving a 
political vacuum in helping to resolve this situation for the 
long term.  We continue to exert our admittedly limited 
influence with key actors - most notably Belgrade's 
representatives in Kosovo - to keep things calm and prevent 
any escalation. The situation in Strpce is yet another 
example of how important it is to rationalize the 
international presence in Kosovo; i.e., to ensure a uniform 
and complete deployment of EULEX into all areas of Kosovo 
later this fall.  In the absense of such a uniform 
deployment, the potential for uncertainty and violence in 
Strpce, as well as in other enclave locales, will only 
increase.  End Summary. 
 
Political Situation Confused 
 
¶2.  (C) The political situation in the Serb-majority 
municipality of Strpce remains confused, with no one faction 
or institution holding a preponderance of power.  The 
Serb-only parallel municipal government, led by Zvonko 
Mihaijlovic (Serbian Radical Party), continues to occupy 
certain offices in the municipal building.  Workers -- both 
Serb and Albanian -- employed by the legitimate municipal 
government continue to occupy other offices in the municipal 
building as well.  Strpce's police station remains open, and 
Kosovo Police Service (KPS) commander Dragan Ivanovic, along 
with his Serb officers, remain on the job and responsive to 
higher KPS command at the regional and central level.  In 
Albanian majority areas of the municipality, Beqir 
Fejzullahu, the top Kosovo Albanian vote-getter in Strpce in 
the November 17, 2007 municipal elections, serves as 
political leader of Strpce's Albanian minority. 
 
Role of the KPS Key 
 
¶3.  (C) Most observers, including Strpce's parallel CEO 
Radica Grbic, who held the same position as the 
municipality's chief civil servant during the previous 
legitimate administration, agree that the Kosovo Serb KPS, 
backed by KFOR, is the most important factor maintaining 
Strpce's relative stability.  UNMIK CIVPOL and USKFOR in the 
region tell us that KPS commander Ivanovic is advising Strpce 
residents of all ethnicities to file police reports with his 
officers if and when they have a complaint, rather than 
resorting to taking action themselves.  Strpce CIVPOL monitor 
(and U.S. police officer) Teresa Pyle told us Sept. 3 that 
this has kept tensions low and reduced the number of 
complaints "because now that they have to write them down and 
sign them, people aren't making as many accusations as 
before." 
 
Parallel Government Continues to Push the Envelope 
 
¶4.  (C) Amid the municipality's political and security 
complexities, parallel mayor Mihaijlovic and his followers 
continue to assert authority in various ways, most visibly in 
their efforts to combat illegal construction and to gain 
access to cadastral records.  Parallel government officials 
maintain a vehicle checkpoint at the entrance to the "Weekend 
 
PRISTINA 00000498  002 OF 003 
 
 
Zone" area in Strpce in an effort to stop illegal 
construction there.  This has led Albanians building homes in 
that zone to make periodic complaints to Embassy officials 
and to the press.  During our September 3 conversation, Pyle 
showed us the checkpoint.  She explained that it has been 
turning away trucks, prompting builders to hide construction 
materials in passenger cars, which originally were exempt 
from inspection.  KPS regional command told USKFOR on 
September 18 that it was considering allowing the Strpce KPS 
-- vice the parallel government -- to man the checkpoint as 
long as legitimate municipal inspectors could be found to 
assist them. 
 
¶5.  (C) One factor holding tensions in check is the stable 
status quo that no one wants to disturb, a point that 
Commander Ivanovic made with USKFOR on September 18, 
describing Strpce as "manageable for now," given that nothing 
disruptive had occurred over the previous two weeks.  Another 
factor may be a commonly-held opinion among both Stprce's 
Serbs and Albanians that illegal construction is a major 
problem requiring some sort of action.  USKFOR reported on 
August 11 that Fejzullahu, Strpce's Albanian political 
leader, and others are outraged by the building, which is 
talking place in a national park.  An article in the Albanian 
language daily Koha Ditore on September 17, while criticizing 
the parallel structures for operating an illegal checkpoint, 
also pointed out that Mihaijlovic had "environmental" reasons 
for preventing construction there. (Note: Local residents of 
all ethnicities have griped about this problem for years, but 
even under the parallel government, construction continues 
largely unabated.  End Note.) 
 
¶6.  (C) The situation is less stable regarding the dueling 
jurisdiction over control of the municipal cadastral records. 
 Mihaijlovic asserts his "government's" right to control the 
cadastral office in Strpce, and parallel officials have twice 
attempted to occupy the office, most recently on September 1. 
 These attempts have raised tensions in the town.  For 
example, Strpce residents, during the September 1 clash over 
cadastral records, called for the KPS to intervene and 
protect the office.  The Cadastral Office now remains locked, 
and the KPS Regional Command in Ferizaj/Urosevac controls the 
keys.  T 
 
¶7.  (C) Apart from the cadastral office itself, Mihaijlovic 
has also said he wants to control the entire municipal 
building and all municipal functions.  For the moment, the 
building remains divided between parallel officials and those 
still working for what remains of the legitimate municipal 
government, who are paid by the Kosovo central budget.  These 
civil servants reported to USKFOR on September 18 that they 
were still under pressure from Mihaijlovic to give the 
parallel government control over municipal taxation 
(including property taxes), among other things.  KPS officers 
are now stationed at the building's entrance to prevent any 
flare-ups of violence.  The civil servants continue to 
provide all Strpce residents with essential land records, 
birth certificates, and other documents essential to everyday 
life, thus preserving some elements of legitimate municipal 
government and helping the municipality to continue 
functioning. 
 
CEO's View 
 
¶8.  (C) In speaking with Radica Grbic on September 3, we 
heard a great deal of frustration from her about the parallel 
government, which she believes "simply does not understand 
the position we (Strpce Serbs) are in."  She also confirmed 
reports that Mihaijlovic is portraying any small or 
incidental contact with international officials, including 
KFOR, as a sign of support for his parallel government's 
legitimacy, which in her opinion further illustrates his 
misunderstanding of the situation.  As with many other more 
moderate Kosovo Serbs, Grbic expressed dismay at the results 
of the May 11 parallel elections, which resulted in parallel 
assemblies dominated by hardliners from the Serbian Radical 
Party (SRS) and the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS).  She 
 
PRISTINA 00000498  003 OF 003 
 
 
explained her continued presence in the parallel government 
as an attempt to maintain contacts with UNMIK, Strpce's 
Albanians, and the outside world.  We asked her, and she 
agreed, to carry a message to Mihaijlovic warning that his 
continued efforts to assert authority in Strpce could well 
provoke a violent confrontation that the international 
community would be hard-pressed to keep under control.  On 
September 9, Grbic phoned to tell us that Mihaijlovic heard 
our message but had no response, and insisted that we talk to 
him directly. 
 
Ministry for Kosovo's Reaction 
 
¶9.  (C) On September 19, the Ambassador met with Serbian 
State Secretary for Kosovo Oliver Ivanovic and pressed him to 
restrain Mihaijlovic.  Ivanovic indicated he would counsel 
Mihaijlovic to refrain from further provocative action.  As a 
moderate politician, Ivanovic concurred with Grbic's opinion, 
expressing a great deal of frustration with the results of 
the parallel elections in Kosovo, pointing out that 
Mihaijlovic "is after all, a member of the Radical Party," 
but noting that as a matter of Serbian state policy, support 
for the parallel municipal authorities in Strpce and 
throughout Kosovo would continue and indeed intensify. 
 
Comment: Not Seeing Clearly 
 
¶10. (C) Among the parallel authorities in Serb-majority areas 
in Kosovo, Strpce's poses the most serious challenge to date. 
 We have received no indication that the Serbian government, 
through the Ministry for Kosovo -- the organization with the 
most potential influence in this situation -- is making any 
substantial effort to restrain the parallel mayor; indeed, 
they have previewed their intention to increase support to 
parallel authorities, no matter how politically distasteful 
these Radical administrations may be to a DS-led Belgrade 
government.  We have made the potential consequences of 
continued provocations by the parallel authorities quite 
clear to Belgrade's representatives in Kosovo, and we 
continue, together with USKFOR, to exert practical influence 
on the ground where possible to encourage restraint and good 
sense.  The situation in Strpce is yet another example of how 
important it is to rationalize the international presence in 
Kosovo; i.e., to ensure a uniform and complete deployment of 
EULEX into all areas of Kosovo.  In the absense of such a 
uniform deployment, the potential for uncertainty and 
violence in Strpce, as well as in other enclave locales, will 
only increase.  End Comment. 
KAIDANOW