By Bojana Barlovac
Leaders in Serb-run northern Kosovo say they may review their controversial decision to hold a referendum in the light of Belgrade’s stated request for them not to proceed.
Kosovo Serb leaders have pledged to meet party whips in municipal assembies in northern Kosovo in order to test the mood on postponing the announced referendum.
In December, Serb leaders in the North said they would hold a vote in mainly Serb areas, to ask local people whether they wished to acknowledge Kosovo government institutions or not.
The referendum idea was not backed by Belgrade, however, which saw it as unnecessarily controversial and as bound to irritate the EU.
Brussels has made it clear it wants to see the political temperature drop in the breakaway Serb-run north.
While Kosovo’s government predictably called the planned vote “illegal”, Serbian President Boris Tadic said a vote at this stage would only deepen the current crisis and would not contribute to a solution to the Kosovo issue.
To prevent the referendum from being held, Goran Bogdanovic, Serbian Minister for Kosovo, gathered mayors of Kosovo Serbian municipalities in Belgrade on Thursday to try to persuade them to postpone it.
The timing of the planned referendum, February 15, approximately concides with the time when the EU Council of Ministers is expected to discuss Serbia’s EU candidacy bid.
The EU has previously stated that Serbia can only obtain candidacy after EU foreign ministers and convinced 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.
The ageements referred to concern freedom of movement, mutual recognition of university degrees and other issues.
After Thursday’s meeting, Kosovo Serb leaders said they did not want to make any decision that would undermine Serbia’s national interests.
“If it turns out that delaying the referendum may better, or ease, the position of the government and President Boris Tadic, we are ready to talk about moving the deadline,” Krstimir Pantic said.
Serbs in northern Kosovo have been blocking roads since the summer in protest against attempts by the ethnic Albanian-led government in Pristina to take control of border crossings with Serbia.
Clashes over the barricades in July left dozens of NATO peacekeepers and protesters injured.