By Gordana Andric
The spokesperson of the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said the planned vote in Serb-held areas of Kosovo was another factor delaying a lasting solution to the former province’s problems.
“Violence and barricades solve nothing and nor do referenda. We will get to a solution only through calm, consultation and dialogue,” Maja Kocijancic said.
Kocijancic was referring to a Kosovo Serb announcement that they will call a referendum asking locals whether “they accept the institutions of so-called Republic of Kosovo” in a few weeks’ time.
According to the plans, the referendum will be held on February 15, approximately the same time that the EU Council of Ministers is due to meet in Brussels to discuss Serbia’s EU candidacy bid.
The EU has previously stated that Serbia can only obtain candidacy after EU foreign ministers “examine and confirm that Serbia has continued to show credible commitment and achieved further progress in moving forward with the implementation in good faith of agreements” with Kosovo.
These include agreements on border management, regional cooperation and allowing NATO peacekeepers in KFOR to execute their tasks in the former Serbian province.
On Monday, Serbia’s President, Boris Tadic, told the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti that he feared the referendum could jeopardise Serbia’s efforts to obtain candidacy.
The head of Serbian government information bureau, Milivoje Mihajlovic, told Balkan Insight that the government sees the referendum as unnecessary, though he doubted it would derail Serbia’s EU hopes.
“I don’t think the referendum will jeopardise the [EU] candidacy bid… [as] Serbia has already fulfilled most of requirements,” he said.
Meanwhile Kosovo Serb leaders are standing firm. The mayor of the Serb-run north of Mitrovica, Krstimir Pantic, rejected claims that the referendum could damage Serbia’s EU progress.
“The tale that the referendum could jeopardise it [the bid] is just the government’s attempt to covers themselves as they will not be granted candidacy so they need a scapegoat,” Pantic said.
A Balkan Insight source from Brussels said the announced referendum would take everyone further away from a solution. “I don’t think it’s seen positively, it wouldn’t be a constructive move,” the source said.