The expropriation decision is considered a classic seizure of Serb properties

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The decision by the Government of Kosovo regarding several expropriations in the municipalities of Leposaviq and Zubin Potok has sparked numerous reactions. The Serbs interpreted it as yet another move aimed at expelling them from Kosovo, and the executive’s decision was also criticized by international entities.

In a meeting held on May 30, 2024, the Government made the final decision to expropriate real estate properties of owners and interest holders affected by the implementation of “infrastructure projects for public interest” in the municipalities of Leposaviq and Zubin Potok. According to the Government, the decision was made in accordance with the final judgments of the courts of the Republic of Kosovo.

This expropriation process in the two northern municipalities began in mid-January 2023, where several properties were declared “immovable property of special public interest – necessary for the implementation of infrastructure projects of public interest.”

Based on the previous decision by the Government, the total planned expropriation area was approximately 104 hectares in Leposaviq and around 33 hectares in Zubin Potok. However, the latest decision states that 96 hectares will be expropriated in Leposaviq, which is eight hectares less than initially planned.

Photo: Prime Minister’s Office

The embassies of the QUINT countries, the European Union Office in Pristina, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission responded to the decision. “The Government violated its own laws and regulations due to procedural and technical flaws during the expropriation process,” the joint statement said, highlighting concerns raised by the court regarding the preliminary expropriation decision, which, according to them, the Government has yet to address.

“While some of the claimants’ properties were removed from the final expropriation decision, we regret that the Kosovo government did not wait for all open court procedures to be fully adjudicated before taking this decision. It is essential that the government makes efforts to ensure that expropriation activities comply with the law,” the QUINT, EU, and OSCE statement concluded.

Government officials provided further clarifications regarding the decision. According to government spokesperson Përparim Kryeziu, “The court was clear in stating that most plaintiffs did not have the legitimacy to initiate legal procedures because they could not prove ownership of the land subject to expropriation. Consequently, the Government has acted based on court decisions and existing laws,” Kryeziu said, adding that the decision aligns with the final judgments of Kosovo’s courts, which required the exclusion of certain parcels from the expropriation.

The Government stated that, on the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure, the process of expropriating immovable property in several municipalities of the Republic of Kosovo began in accordance with the current Expropriation Law, aiming to construct infrastructure projects. “This purpose follows the definition of ‘legitimate purpose’ as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This was also presented during meetings and discussions with international partners, who requested that the Government of Kosovo respect ongoing legal procedures before making a final expropriation decision,” the Government of Kosovo stated in its response. According to the Government, the only issue related to the expropriation procedure, as indicated by Strasbourg Jurisprudence, is the amount of compensation.

Reactions also came from the Serb List, which labeled this as a classic land grab of Serb territories in the municipalities of Leposaviq and Zubin Potok. “We expect the international community to clearly and unequivocally condemn these decisions, as well as the seizure of local Serb lands, and to demand a return to the previous state and the removal of illegal bases with monoethnic pre-police units. This anti-Serb decision and the plan for the persecution of Serbs must be stopped,” the Serb List stated.

*This article is published as part of the Western Balkans Regional Initiative against disinformation. “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: exposing malign influences through watchdog journalism.”