Serbia Officials bans Kosovo-Serbia Festival

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Held since 2014 with the participation of Albanian and Serb artists and taking the name from the word “good afternoon” in the respective languages, the festival aims to foster cultural exchange and aid in the normalization of tense relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Having been organized without much trouble since then, this year attracted criticism from Serbia’s top officials.

Joining Minister Dačić’s and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vulin’s condemnation of the event, Belgrade Mayor Aleksandar Šapić declared that the use of any public space would be prohibited, accusing the festival of distorting the history of Kosovo’s cultural heritage.

Before the opening of the festival, a gathering of dozens of young members affiliated with the New Democratic Party of Serbia (New DSS) took place at Dorćol Square, aimed at halting the continuation of the festival. President of New DSS youth wing claimed that Kosovo is inherently Serbian and that the festival could be unconstitutional.

Moreover, Serbian police stopped some of the organizers of the festival from Kosovo and teams of journalists from reaching the festival by road, accompanying them back to Kosovo.

In a statement following the cancellation, organizers of the festival criticized the Ministry of Internal Affairs, stating that it of violated the country’s Constitution and provisions of the European Court on Human Rights, namely those on freedom of expression and assembly.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but the Serbian Constitution still maintains that Kosovo is part of its territory.  The majority of EU member state, the US and other UN members have recognized Kosovo’s statehood, and an ICJ advisory opinion of 2010 said that the declaration of independence did not violate international law.

The debate surrounding Kosovo’s cultural heritage has been a longstanding issue, prominently marked by Serbia’s 2015 “No Kosovo UNESCO” campaign, which prevented Kosovo’s bid for UNESCO membership. At the time, the Serbian government contended that medieval Orthodox churches and monasteries, are integral to Serbian heritage and cannot be listed under Kosovo’s cultural heritage.

Source; Jarist news

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