ISSN 2330-717X

Kosovo Serbs Defy Belgrade On Referendum

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By Marija Ristic

Kosovo Serbs say they will not bow to pressure to abandon a planned vote in which they will ask local people whether to “accept the institutions of so-called Republic of Kosovo”, even if they do not have support from Belgrade.

“Serbian people in North Kosovo are united in their stance that a referendum must be held. All political parties support the planned vote except the Democratic Party in Leposavic,” Marko Jaksic, vice president of the Assembly of Association of Serbian Municipalities and Settlements in Kosovo and Metohija, said on Wednesday.

Leposavic is a municipality in Kosovo on the border with Serbia. The Democratic Party is the ruling party in Serbia.

Unless it is cancelled at the last minute, the referendum will be held on February 15, the National Day of Serbia, in four mainly Serbian municipalities in Kosovo.

“The vote will not be organized in municipalities in southern Kosovo, since there are no technical possibilities for a referendum [to take place there],” Jaksic noted.

Belgrade has criticised the referendum as an unnecessary provocation of the international community, which has become increasingly concerned about Serb agitation in the north of Kosovo.

The office of Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, has said that the planned vote in Serb-held areas of Kosovo was another factor delaying a lasting solution to the former Serbian province’s problems.

But Milan Ivanovic, president of the Serbian National Council of North Kosovo, another local umbrella body, accused Belgrade of cooperating too closely with Pristina and Brussels and of acting against Serbian national interests.

“It is clear that the Serbian government failed in its Kosovo and EU policy, and now their focus is on gaining EU candidacy,” Ivanovic said.

Kosovo Serb leaders, meanwhile, have upped pressure on Belgrade to make it clear that the next round of parliamentary and local elections will not take place only in Serbia proper, but also in Kosovo.

Elections in Serbia are due on May 6, but Belgrade has not clarified whether Kosovo Serbs will be invited to participate, fearing the impact that this might have on Serbia’s EU candidacy bid, which EU foreign ministers are to rule on this spring.

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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