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EU Urges Dialogue in Kosovo Amid Serbian Vote Boycott

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The European Union urged the government of Kosovo and Serbs to start a “serious dialogue” to return to state institutions after they boycotted the municipal elections with the aim of pressing for more autonomy.

The province asserted that the Western-backed plan, which was verbally approved by the governments of Kosovo and Serbia in March, had not been successful. He aimed to defuse tensions by giving local Serbs more autonomy with Pristina retaining final power.

“These elections do not offer a long-term political solution for these municipalities,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said on Monday, referring to a northern region of the 90 percent Albanian country in which Serbs form a majority.

“There is an urgent need for serious dialogue. It is essential that we urgently restore the situation where Kosovo Serbs actively participate in the local governance, police and judiciary in northern Kosovo,” he said in a statement.

Stano said that the bloc regrets that all parties and sects did not exercise their democratic right to participate and vote in the elections.

“The very low turnout, particularly among Kosovo Serb citizens, shows that this operation is not and cannot be considered business as usual,” said Stano.

“These elections do not provide a long-term political solution for these municipalities. This can only happen through the permanent return of Kosovo Serbs to institutions, and in order for Kosovo to enable this return,” he said.

The European Union also urged the authorities to establish the Serb community in northern Kosovo.

”The work on the establishment of the Serb-majority Association/Community of Municipalities should be completed as soon as possible… There is an urgent need for a serious dialogue between the Kosovo government and Kosovo Serbs in the north to this end. Little progress has been made so far. Therefore, we need both sides to play their role and fulfill their obligations.”

On the other hand, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that radical changes have taken place in the local elections in Kosovo.

“This is a historic result because nothing similar has ever happened on European soil since World War II, with a participation rate of 0.029 percent,” Vucic told a news conference.

According to him, the Serbs showed exceptional unity and discipline.

He said, “The Serbs not only acted patriotic, but also acted like a very strong people who knew the pressures they were under, but were ready to show tremendous resolve to oppose Gauleiter in the most dignified manner.”

Vucic added that the OSCE and the European Union did not monitor the elections.

“They did not have time to visit the polling stations of the EU office and the Quinte countries (US, UK, France, Germany and Italy), I think they would not see any irregularities,” he said.

Vucic said he would “possibly” take part in the next round of EU-brokered talks with Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti, scheduled in Brussels on May 2, although “nothing was expected” from that meeting.

“I’m afraid this is a precursor to a much deeper crisis,” Vucic said.

However, political analyst Dusan Gangik believes that the elections are not legitimate.

“If the first Brussels agreement is ratified as an international treaty, it will be problematic from the point of view of legitimacy because the main goal of the elections is the integration of Serbs, not Albanians,” he told the Serbian news agency Tanjug.

Kosovo Serbs on Sunday boycotted the extraordinary elections in four municipalities in the north of the country.

Voting ended up with just 3.47%, according to the Kosovo Central Election Commission (KQZ).

KQZ said 1,567 of the 45,095 registered voters in the area had gone to the polls as of 7:00 pm local time (1700 GMT).

A total of 11 candidates ran for mayor in North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavic and Zvecan, as well as 60 candidates for the city councils of Zvecan and Leposavic.

Some 50,000 Serbs living there have not recognized Kosovo’s state institutions since Pristina declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a guerrilla uprising, and instead consider Belgrade as their capital.

The Kosovo Election Commission said turnout in Sunday’s local elections in the north was 3.47%. The four elected mayors belong to ethnic Albanian political parties, including two from Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s ruling Self-Determination Party. The only Serbian candidate received only five votes.

Serbian officials in the north resigned en masse in November 2022 in protest of the Pristina government’s plan to replace the number plates of pre-independence-era Serbian cars with numbers with Kosovo ones.

They demand the implementation of an association of semi-autonomous Kosovo Serb municipalities that was agreed with EU mediation a decade ago, before participating in any elections organized by Pristina.

Kurti accused the Serbian government of orchestrating a “threat campaign” to intimidate Serbs in the north who were willing to vote.

Precarious security in northern Kosovo

Kosovo President Fyoza Osmani announced the postponement of the elections in the northern municipalities on 23 April due to the dangerous security situation.

An Ottoman decision came after the withdrawal of Kosovo Serbs from central and local institutions in Kosovo.

The elections were scheduled for December 18 last year.

However, during the election campaign, more than 10 parked vehicles belonging to Serbs were set on fire by unknown persons or groups.

Earlier this month, a Serbian official accused Kosovo authorities of trying to incite Serbs in the country by shooting a member of the local community.

Petar Petkovic, Director of the Kosovo and Metohija Office, told local media that Serbian citizen Milan Jovanovic was shot by police fire on the northern Liposavic – Mitrovica road.

The Kosovo Police later announced the suspension of four officers suspected of involvement, including one who may have fired the shot.

The Central Election Commission in Kosovo decided to reduce the number of polling stations from 44 to 19 polling stations.

Thirteen replacement centers will be set up in containers in secure areas.

Kosovo, which is primarily inhabited by Albanians, broke away from Serbia in 1999 and declared its independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize its independence and considers its former province part of its territory.

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