ISSN 2330-717X

Kosovo Serbs Go Ahead With Referendum


By Bojana Barlovac

Serbs in the north head to the polls today to vote in a controversial referendum, which both the international community and the authorities in Belgrade had hoped they would abandon.

Kosovo Serb representatives say around 35,500 people will have the right to vote in 82 polling stations in the four mostly Serb northern municipalities of Zubin Potok, Zvecan, northern Mitrovica and Leposavic.

Krstimir Pantic, the Serb mayor of Mitrovica, said the referendum will strengthen the position of Serbs in the north, as well as that of Serbs south of the Ibar river in mainly Albanian parts of Kosovo.

“I believe they [the Serbs elsewhere in Kosovo] will soon organize a referendum too and show that none of us has given up on Kosovo and Metohija,” Pantic told local media.

Polling stations opened at 7am Tuesday. Voters will be asked simply whether or not they accept the “institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo”.

Members of municipal election commissions have started checking whether all polling stations are open because the territory on which the referendum is conducted is dispersed, with many polling stations in remote villages cut off due to heavy snow.

“In urban areas, all [polling stations] are open and everything is running smoothly. We are yet to get the information on villages,” Ljubo Radovic, a member of the commission, said.

The initiative does not have the support of the Serbian government, even though Belgrade also strongly opposes Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008.

Serbian officials fear the referendum may damage Serbia’s prospects of becoming a candidate for European Union membership.

“The referendum diminishes our credibility and capacity for negotiations with the international community. We know the results already because we are against Kosovo’s institutions,” Goran Bogdanovic, Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo, told parliament last week.

But Kosovo Serb leaders say they are determined to resist outside pressure and some haveaccused Serbian government officials of siding with Pristina and Brussels against Serbia’s national interest.

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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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