Kosovo drops plans to take over Trepca mining complex

By bne IntelliNews January 20, 2015

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The Kosovan government has backed down over plans to take over the Trepca mining complex, a move that would have worsened its already tense relations with Serbia.

A new law on public enterprises, which would have paved the way for Pristina to take over the giant Trepca Mining, Metallurgical and Chemical Combine, was due to be discussed in the Kosovan parliament on November 19.

However, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa informed the parliament that the draft law had been removed from the agenda. Mustafa told MPs that while the government was still committed to “creating conditions for the reorganisation of Trepca”, the draft law was “faced with very specific problems”, according to a statementon the parliament website.

Pristina is now proposing that the Kosovo Privatisation Agency, which currently controls Trepca, be given a further three years to restructure the company, Reuters reported.

At an extraordinary government meeting later in the day, ministers approved changes to the draft law amending existing legislation on public enterprises. This includes a proposal to give special status to Trepca.

The plans to take control of Trepca had angered Serbian officials, with Serbian Prime Minister Alexandar Vucic warning on January 16 that the move would pose a serious threat to attempts to normalise relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

On January 18, Marko Djuric, the director of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo-Metohija, the Serb-dominated area of northern Kosovo where Trepca is located, said that Belgrade would not accept a unilateral takeover of the mining complex, according to the Serbian government website. Djuric added that Trepca’s majority shareholder was the Development Fund of the Republic of Serbia.

Trepca was one of the largest companies in Yugoslavia. While the bulk of its resources were in modern day Kosovo, where lead and zinc mines, smelters and processing facilities are located, it also spanned parts of what are now Serbia and Montenegro. Most of the vast complex has been inactive since Kosovo’s war of independence from Serbia in the late 1990s, and has fallen into disrepair.

The Kosovan government is believed to have backed down following pressure from the international community. Pressing ahead with the plans would have jeopardised progress on the 2013 Brussels agreement, under which the two countries agreed to work towards normalising relations - a pre-condition for EU accession.

It would also most likely have led to unrest in Kosovo-Metohija, where according to Djuric around 4,000 ethnic Serbs depend on Trepca for their livelihood. On January 19, around 800 people turned out to demonstrate against the Kosovan government’s plans, according to Kosovan news service Kosova Press.

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