Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Northern Kosovo Serbs go ahead with referendum on Pristina

Hard-line ethnic Albanian protesters of the nationalist Self-Determination Movement protest near Podujevo, a town in northern Kosovo on January 22, 2012.

Source: Press TV

Serbs in northern Kosovo are going ahead with a referendum this week, in which citizens voice their opinion as to whether they accept the institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo.

On Monday, Serb leaders in northern Kosovo said they will hold the referendum despite opposition from Pristina, the international community and even Belgrade.

“The referendum will be held Tuesday and Wednesday. ... We printed 35,000 ballots," a member of the electoral commission that is organising the vote, Ljubomir Radovic said.

Residents of the Serb-dominated north oppose Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and believe the referendum will underscore their opposition to concessions that Belgrade has made to the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina during EU-brokered talks.

Voters will be asked whether they “accept the institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo seated in Pristina”.

However, the Serbian government does not support the move, even though Belgrade also opposes Kosovo independence. Serbian officials fear the referendum may damage Serbia’s European Union membership bid.

“The referendum ... cannot help solve the crisis," Serbian President Boris Tadic said.

The Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs reject Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, recognized by Western powers, and regard the region as a part of greater Serbia.

The European Union (EU) leaders have delayed Serbia's bid to become a formal candidate for membership in the EU until March 2012, at the earliest. The decision was made due to Serbia's fraught relations with Kosovo.

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