The Preševo Valley (Serbo-Croatian: Прешевска долина, Preševska dolina; Albanian: Lugina e Preshevës) is a region in southern Serbia composed of the municipalities of Bujanovac, Medveđa and Preševo. Geopolitically, the region is the center of the Albanian community in Serbia (not counting Kosovo) with Albanians comprising 54.6% of Bujanovac and 89% of Preševo.
In Albanian the area is referred to as Lugina e Preshevës and in Serbian as Preševska dolina. Albanians also sometimes call the region eastern Kosovo, which makes reference to the Kosovo Vilayet, from which this area was incorporated into Serbia in 1913. Because of Albanian demands for territorial autonomy, the use of "Preševo Valley" is somewhat politically loaded. In Serbian official statements, the area is usually referred to as the "territory of municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa".
Geographically, the Preševo Valley is coterminous with the river basin of Preševska Moravica from its source near the town of Preševo to the confluence with South Morava at Bujanovac. It is part of the Morava/Vardar North-South route across the Balkans, which follows the flows of Great Morava and South Morava through Serbia. This route carries the pan-European corridor X and E75. The importance of this route to Serbia has increased since 1999, when the main alternative route, through Pristina, became unusable due to the Kosovo War and subsequent loss of Serbian control over Kosovo.
The Yugoslav communist government, seeking to maintain the road and rail routes that passed through the region and also control Albanian nationalists, separated this region from Kosovo and organized it into Serbia. During the Kosovo War 6–8,000 ethnic Albanians left the area. They reported that they were being conscripted, and Serbian paramilitaries were trying to force them into military barracks.
Preševo Valley conflict
In 2001, as a follow-up to the Kosovo War, there were clashes between Serbian security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas linked to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), known as the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac (Albanian: Ushtria Çlirimtare e Preshevës, Medvegjës dhe Bujanocit, UÇPMB). The aim of UÇPM was to take full control of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa and hold them until such time as the adjacent lands, Kosovo and western Macedonia, also came under Albanian control. This should have been followed by the gradual opening of the borders. Lacking the attention of the international media, the incidents paused as the activities spread south of the border into Macedonia from where the twin organization National Liberation Army, engaged in a war against Macedonian authorities. The Presevo valley conflict ended after international intervention that led to peace treaty, which demilitarise the area, amnestied UÇPMB and granted to the Yugoslav army entry to the region under NATO's approval.
In September 2007, Boris Tadić stated "that former and current terrorists, who recently managed to escape from prison in Kosovo, were located in northern regions of the Republic of Macedonia". According to Tadić, "terrorists are planning new attacks on municipalities in southern Serbia in order to start a new Preševo Valley conflict".
The Albanians of the area are represented politically by the Party for Democratic Action, which won two seats in the 2014 Parliamentary election. Other parties boycotted the elections, citing deep discontent over Belgrade's treatment of the Albanian minority as one of the main reasons. As a result, the National Assembly of Serbia has only two ethnic Albanians.
Representatives from the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa have adopted a declaration asking for the formation of the "Preševo Valley region" in early August 2009. Milan Marković, the President of the Coordinating Body for Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa stated that such demands will not solve any problems.
The region is often mentioned in connection with political negotiations of the Kosovo status process. Albanian leaders from the Valley wanted to participate in the talks but were not allowed. A territorial exchange between Serbia and Kosovo involving the Valley and North Kosovo is an often-mentioned topic in media and informal "probe" statements, but all sides in the official process so far rejected any prospect of a border change. A Chinese scholar proposed another territory exchange: the Serb enclaves south of the Ibar River with Preševo Valley.
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