ISSN 2330-717X

Serbia Faces Dilemma Over Elections In Kosovo

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By Bojana Barlovac

Belgrade is still mulling the consequences of extending spring elections to its former province after winning EU candidate status.

Serbia’s Electoral Commission is due to to discuss the organisational aspects of holding local elections in Kosovo with representatives of the international community this week.

The government will make a final decision by Tuesday on whether to include Kosovo in its next round of local elections, Balkan Insight has learned from the cabinet.

General and local elections are due on April 29 or May 6.

The Kosovo election question comes at a delicate time for Serbia, just after it obtained EU candidate status for membership at the European Union summit in Brussels on March 1.

The country’s further progress on the EU path, which now requires getting a date for a start to accession talks, mostly depends on the outcome of ongoing talks with Kosovo.

The mainly ethnic Albanian province unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

But Serbia has vowed never to recognise this act of secession, and it still insists that the land remains part of its own territory.

Belgrade organised both parliamentary and local elections in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo in 2008, but the UN authority in Kosovo, UNMIK, as well as the Kosovo government, condemned these polls as illegitimate.

The US ambassador to Kosovo, Christopher Dell, said on Tuesday that including Kosovo in Serbia’s spring polls would inflict more damage on Serbia than on Kosovo.

In recent months, Serbian officials have sounded undecided over whether to include Kosovo in the next round of local elections.

First they insisted that Belgrade could not exclude Kosovo as that would violate the Serbian consitution.

But in the run-up to the decision on EU candidacy, officials moved away from that initial idea, saying it would be difficult to hold the polls in Kosovo without the full consent of international factors.

Serbian parliament speaker Slavica Djukic Dejanovic on Tuesday met local Serb leaders from mainly Serb northern Kosovo to discuss the issue.

She noted that Serbia had a constitutional obligation to call elections in the entire national territory but that international consent was necessary in order to hold them in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, Kosovo’s government firmly opposes the idea of another country holding local elections anywhere in Kosovo.

Arber Vlahiu, media adviser to the President of Kosovo, said holding Serbian elections in Kosovo would be illegal and in contradiction with international resolutions.

“Kosovo elections are organized in accordance with the laws and constitution of this country,” Vlahiu said on Wednesday.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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