by Stana RISTIC
The mentioned request demands that the Establishment of an Immovable Property Rights Register Act be annulled, including all of the legal and practical activities based on that act. That includes the announced aerophotogrametric survey of the territory, measurement and establishment of the new cadastre based on the results of the conducted survey.
The then special UN representative Michael Steiner refused to sign the mentioned act until the Kosovo Assembly added guarantees that "the rights of property owners will be protected, as well as that the participants in the property registration process would be timely and appropriately informed about the activities in connection with the registration of property".
What did the Kosovo Assembly do? According to our collocutor, the assembly only specified the manner in which property owners are to be informed. Namely, the adopted "information procedure" is as follows: all information about activities related to registration of property and cadastral documentation are to be posted on bulletin boards inside city halls and kept posted for five days. That "notification procedure" immediately makes one wonder who its target is. Obviously, 250,000 Serbs expelled from Kosovo, as well as those who remain in Kosovo, for security reasons would not be able to access that information. However, that did not prevent Harri Holkeri from enacting the Establishment of an Immovable Property Rights Register Act on August 18, 2003, after accepting the added "notification procedure".
President of the Coordination Center, Dr. Nebojsa Covic, has requested that Harri Holkeri annul the aforementioned act because "it directly endangered property rights" of Serbs and other non-Albanians. On February 25, 2004, Holkeri informed Covic that in his opinion there was no need to annul the act.
The government of Serbia, ambassadors of the Contact Group countries, and countries members of the UN Security Council have been informed about the problem and the announced aerophotogrammetric survey of the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.
Albanians, our collocutor emphasizes, are doing all of this deliberately and in coordination with each other. Thus, the document "Standards for Kosovo", in the chapter "Property Rights", point 7 states that "the land and immovable property registers have been established and it are functioning, while the revision of the municipal land and immovable property registers has been completed". The job of "erasing" evidence of Serb ownership of property, real estate and land, from cadastral books and legalization of ethnic cleansing of Serbs should, according to Albanians plans, carried out with support or tacit approval of UNMiK, be completed by the end of the next year.
Cucic offers examples that prove his assertions. In Kosmet, this is unprecedented, "the right of usurpers and illegal users of property has been placed above the rights of the owner of that property".
According to our collocutor, the rights of property owners must be respected, while possible needs of the usurper of the property must be satisfied in other ways. The Housing and Property Directorate (HPD) has so far received 29,000 requests for the return of property, houses and apartments. Out of that, more than 27,000 requests were submitted by Serbs.
In three years since its founding, the HPD, Cucic explains, has managed to resolve only 3,000 cases, and in only two hundred cases it has "carried out the procedure of returning" owners to apartments and houses. Criticism from various sides followed. Consequently, the HPD, following an accelerated procedure, "resolved" six thousand cases. However, the "conclusions" of cases involving Serb property say the following: "There are three options. You can file a lawsuit with the competent court to evict those who are illegally usurping your property; you can rent the apartment to a family, but we cannot guarantee that you will be able to collect the rent; finally, you can sell the apartment". It does seem that the HPD suggests that the sale of the property is the best available solution, doesn't it?
In this way, the HPD, the agency whose mission is supposed to be to return property to expelled and displaced persons, became, says Cucic, the agency that in practice hinders the return and assists in the legalization of ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosmet.
Thus, last year, in Urosevac [Ferizaj], an Albanian usurping a Serb house was ordered to move out. He responded by saying that "fine, I'll move out, but first I'm going to strip the house bare, loot everything, and then set it on fire". Indeed, he did as he said, in front of the present Kosovo Police Service and UNMiK police members, who failed to react. Actually, they did tell him that they "were not instructed to protect the property".
The HPD is dealing with registration of houses and apartments only. It does not deal with land ownership, unlike the Commission for Real Estate in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which dealt with registration and return of property to its owners, regardless of whether that property was a house, apartment or a plot of land. The commission in Bosnia, says Cucic, resolved 70,000 requests by Serb refugees from Bosnia living in Serbia. The Bosnian model will be applied by Israel in the Gaza strip, as well as by Turks and Greeks in Cyprus. Therefore, good and just solutions do exist. Our duty is to make sure that such solutions are applied in Kosovo and Metohija as well.