By Bojana Barlovac
While Belgrade urges a boycott, local Serbian leaders have taken up diametrically opposing positions on whether they should take part in the April head count.
Slobodan Petrovic, Kosovo’s ethnic Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Government, has called on Kosovo Serbs to take part in the forthcoming census, saying it is in their interest to do so.
“We haven’t had a proper census for 30 years, so the implementation of this process [census] is not only an obligation that we have towards the EU but an obligation we have to ourselves,” Petrovic, leader of the largest Kosovo Serb party, The Independent Liberal Party, SLS, said on the party’s website on Tuesday.
But another Kosovo Serb leader, Rada Trajkovic, who is also a deputy in the Kosovo parliament, takes the opposite line. She has dismissed the forthcoming head count as illegal.
“Kosovo has not yet been internationally recognized and t has no right to organize processes of this kind,” Trajkovic was quoted by the news agency Kosovahaber as saying. According to her, Kosovo Serbs should adopt a unified position on the issue and address their concerns to the United Nations.
The Serbian parliament’s committee for Kosovo on Monday called on Kosovo Serbs not to take part in the census, saying Kosovo institutions had no authority to do carry out a head count. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008, and maintains that Kosovo remains a province of Serbia.
Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo and Metohija, Goran Bogdanovic, said Kosovo’s Albanian-led institutions were preparing “a census theft” in order to make the world believe that fewer Serbs live in Kosovo than is the case.
The minister said that 250,000 Serbs had been displaced from Kosovo since the 1990s. The Serbian government says that only the UN can carry out a census in Kosovo.
Meanwhile, Kosovo’s government and Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, on Monday in Pristina said that the census would go ahead on April 1, whether or the Serb-run northernmost part of the country took part.