By ldin Fazliu
President Hashim Thaci announced local elections in four Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo to replace mayors who resigned last year – amid doubts about whether the leading Kosovo Serb party will participate.
President Hashim Thaci on Monday announced that early local elections will be held in May in the four Serb-majority northern municipalities of Kosovo.
“Taking into account the request of Ministry of Local Government and after consultations with political parties and the Central Election Commision, [the President] today took a decision to announce the date of extraordinary mayoral elections for the municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavic and Zvecan,” the announcement read. It said the extraordinary elections will be held on May 19.
It remains unclear whether the main Kosovo Serb party, Serbian List, which is backed by the Serbian government, will participate in the announced elections. It has yet to confirm its stance and did not answer BIRN’s calls on Monday.
Serbia’s Tanjug news agency reported that Serbian state officials will meet representatives of Serbs from northern Kosovo in Belgrade on Wednesday.
Thaci’s decision comes after the mayors of the municipalities, all coming from Lista Srpska, resigned on November 17, expressing their discontent with the government.
The resignations followed the decision of the Kosovo government to impose of a 100-per-cent tax on all imports from Serbia and Bosnia. Local assemblies in all four municipalities in November cut off all communication with Kosovo state institutions.
The head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, said the local assemblies and all other local bodies would cease to operate until the government withdrew what he called “discriminatory measures … and human rights violations”.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj refused to accept the mayoral resignations because of “the terminology used in the resignations, in the use of the term ‘Kosovo and Metohija’, which is unacceptable for the official Pristina”, Radio Free Europe reported.
The terms is an exclusively Serbian expression for the former Serbian province.
In January, BIRN reported that the four mayors of the northern municipalities had continued to receive their salaries despite their resignations.
The government imposed the import taxes after failing to become a member of the international police body, Interpol, which failed due to what Kosovo politicians called Serbia’s “aggressive policies” of obstructing Kosovo’s membership of international organizations.
The tariff remains in place despite strong objections of the international community and calls to withdraw the tariff, which is necessary for the EU-led dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia to continue. Serbia continues to condition continuation for the dialogue with the withdrawal of the tariffs.
Prime Minister Haradinaj has, however, pledged that the tariff will remain in place until Serbia recognizes the independence of Kosovo, proclaimed in 2008. President Thaci on the other hand has called for the withdrawal of the tariff in order to preserve Kosovo’s “partnership” with the international community and the US in particular.