By Bojana Barlovac and Fatmir Aliu
People of the Serb-run enclave voted overwhelmingly to reject contact with independent Kosovo’s institutions – but with Serbia, Kosovo and the international community dismissing the vote as irrelevant, its effect is likely to be scant.
After the two days of voting in an unofficial referendum, 75 per cent of all Serbs living in northern Kosovo voted “No” to the question: “Do you accept the institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo?”
Almost a hundred per cent of those who turned out for the ballot voted “No” with only handfuls saying “Yes”.
The vote has no binding authority, nor does it serve any known purpose, as the hostility of local Serbs to the ethnic Albanian-run institutions of Kosovo was already known. The government of Serbia earlier urged locals to abandon the vote.
The mainly Serb area north of the Ibar river in northern Kosovo, which comprises four municipalities, has consistently rejected the authority of the government in Pristina, as well as Kosovo’s proclamation of independence in 2008.
The mayor of the Serb-run northern half of the town of Mitrovica, Krstimir Pantic, said the international community would now have to take the opinions of the Serbs in the north of Kosovo into account.
“We expect less pressure to be exerted on northern Kosovo by the international community, and for the international community to start changing its approach to solving our many problems,” he said.
But the OSCE and the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, had earlier warned that the referendum had no validity and would have no legal consequences.
Serbian President Boris Tadic on Tuesday said holding the referendum was harmful to the interests of Serbia, which is currently pressing its case in Brussels for EU candidate status.
Borislav Stefanovic, Serbia’s chief negotiator in Kosovo talks, has called the referendum “completely unnecessary and meaningless”.
He said: “The referendum will leave no trace in history, nor will have any result.
“It has sent the wrong message that Serbs in the north cannot agree with their own country,” Stefanovic told Serbian news agency, Tanjug.
Kosovo authorities predictably condemned the vote as illegal.
On Wednesday, with 64 votes for, nine abstentions and none against, the Kosovo parliament adopted a resolution declaring the referendum an attack on Kosovo’s sovereignty.
“The so-called referendum organized by illegal structures has no legal or political effect and as such is void,” the resolution said.
The same resolution urged Serbs in the north to drop the idea of partition and join the efforts to rebuild the country.
“Kosovo is an independent, sovereign, democratic and indivisible country,” it recalled.