Berisha: The key problem regarding the census in the region is representing the true number of the Serbs

Demo Beriša
Source: Kosovo Online

The population census is currently being conducted in Albania, postponed until November 30th in Montenegro, and awaited in Kosovo. The President of the “Matica Albanaca“ in Serbia, Demo Berisha, says for Kosovo Online that the population census is a legal issue, but the key problem in the region for implementing this process is representing the accurate number of the Serbs living in these areas, which has led to politicization.

Berisha states that the former President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, politicized the census to the extent that he even referred to the clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church as bandits in black robes. This, as he says, indicates that no one in the region is satisfied with the number of Serbs living outside the borders of Serbia in the region.

"This is crucial, not how many other inhabitants there are, but how many Serbs there are in, for example, Montenegro. According to the last census, 28 percent of the population identified as Serbs, and all estimates indicate that this percentage could go above 37 percent, which is neither in Montenegro's interest, nor in Bosnia and Herzegovina's, nor in Kosovo's", Berisha says.

When it comes to Kosovo, as Berisha explains, the census has not been conducted since 2011. According to estimates, there are currently around one million residents there, of which approximately 120,000 are Serbs.

"A large number of the Albanian population have renounced the citizenship of the newly established state of Kosovo, and there are an estimated 120,000 Serbs who stayed to live in Kosovo. Albin Kurti doesn't like this fact, which is why he has been postponing the census date since he came to power, even though he took 4.8 million euros from the European Union that were intended to determine how many people live in Kosovo. Kurti's estimate is that it does not work in his favor at the moment", Berisha believes.

Speaking about the number of Serbs in Kosovo, Berisha says that in the northern part, there are 40,000 people with the right to vote, and he adds that in recent years, the Serbian birthrate has increased.

"One can talk about 120,000 people of Serbian nationality, which disrupts Kurti's idea of Kosovo's independence. Regardless of what he says about the process being completed, we see that it is not, and according to Resolution 1244 and other documents, Kosovo is not an independent state but is under the Constitution of Serbia," he says.

Berisha believes that Albin Kurti will not move towards conducting the census at this moment because, as he points out, he does not want to reveal the true data regarding the number of Serbs in Kosovo.

As for Montenegro, he thinks the key question is why the census is being avoided. He points out that the previous Government of Dritan Abazovic in Montenegro passed the necessary regulations and laws for this purpose. He notes that the new Government of Montenegro, led by Milojko Spajic, will have to change its approach to cooperation with the Serbs in Montenegro because the crucial issue is the relationship of the Serbs in the region with Serbia and Serbia's relationship with the Serbs in the region.

"This should not be an obstacle; rather, the presence of the Serbs in the region should be turned around and used positively, as we have seen in critical moments, for example, during the COVID epidemic when there was a shortage of food. President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, said that countries in the region should not worry because what Serbia had, they also had. So, the presence of the Serbs in the region should be used in the opposite way, and not to be feared. The Serbs in the region should certainly be a bridge, and not to scare the citizens of those countries, once their exact number is determined", our interlocutor says.

Regarding Albania, Berisha states that a population census has never been completed properly in that country since World War II, and there are disputes about the number of Serbs in Albania, who, as he says, are found in the regions of the Municipalities of Tirana, Shkoder, Fier, Vlore.

He notes that in Albania, there is another majority community, the Greek community, and says that religious issues are not given much importance in that country.