March 15, 2012
But Serbian government will proceed with plans to let Serbs in north Kosovo vote for their local assemblies.
Belgrade, SERBIA – by Toby Vogel
| Thursday, March 15, 2012 | European Voice |
Boris Tadic, the president of Serbia, has given in to pressure from Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States and excluded Serb-controlled north Kosovo from voting in elections to Serbia’s national parliament on 6 May. However, the Serbian government will proceed with plans to let Serbs in north Kosovo vote for their local assemblies, in defiance of international demands. Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, the speaker of Serbia’s parliament, said on Tuesday (13 March) that the authorities had “an obligation” to respect Serbia’s constitution, which defines Kosovo as a Serbian province.
Foreign diplomats had warned the government that challenging Kosovo’s independence by holding elections in the north would cause significant delays in Serbia’s bid to join the EU. The EU appears split on whether local elections alone are sufficiently provocative to warrant EU action, such as delaying the start of accession talks, currently expected some time next year.
The majority view in the EU is that Serbia’s influence in the region north of the divided city of Mitrovica has complicated the search for a permanent accommodation between Serbia and Kosovo, whose independence Serbia rejects. Five EU member states – Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain – share the Serbian position that Kosovo is legally part of Serbia.
Tadic’s centre-left Democratic Party, in power since 2008, faces a tough challenge from Serbia’s nationalist right. Tadic’s policy has been ‘both Kosovo and the EU’ – pursuing closer ties with the EU while challenging Kosovo’s independence. But British and German demands for the dismantling of ‘parallel institutions’ in north Kosovo – schools, hospitals and local administrations financed by Belgrade and outside the reach ofKosovo’s government in Pristina – have become increasingly insistent.
Serbia was recognised as a candidate for EU membership during an EU summit on 1-2 March and is now waiting for accession negotiations to start. Tadic has said that his government expects to be given a start date later this year.