Kosovo Government building. Photo: Atdhe Mulla.

Kosovo Government not to Allow Serbian Referendum in its Territory, EU and Quint Push for the Opposite

After Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said he did not want Kosovo Serbs voting in a foreign referendum on Kosovo’s territory, the ‘Quint’ embassies and the EU representatives have urged him to stick to previous practice, and allow the OSCE to collect the votes and send them to Serbia.

A referendum on constitutional changes will be held in Serbia on January 16 concerning changes to the judiciary system, as part of Serbian efforts to move closer to the structures of the European Union.

But plans by Serbia to organise the referendum also on the territory of Kosovo, which Serbia does not recognise as an independent state,  has met strong opposition from the country’s government.

The Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, has said that any such referendum would not be an acceptable practice.

In a conversation with the High Representative of the European Union for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Joseph Borrell,  on Wednesday, he said that he had offered two options for Serbian citizens in Kosovo to participate in the referendum in Serbia.

“Serbs in Kosovo with dual citizenship can vote in the referendum in Serbia by mail or at the Liaison Office in Pristina. The referendum of another state in a sovereign territory is not an acceptable practice by any democratic state,” Kurti told Borrel, his Twitter account wrote.

Meanwhile, Borrell said the OSCE mission in Kosovo could assist in collecting votes and facilitating the process, just like in the past.

“Yesterday I talked to the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti and the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, regarding the collection of votes in Kosovo for the constitutional referendum to be held on Sunday in Serbia. Voting in the past has been facilitated by the OSCE. Citizens need to be able to exercise their right to vote,” Borrell wrote on Twitter.

The chairman of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Memli Krasniqi, said that a Serbian referendum in Kosovo would be unconstitutional and a “flagrant” violation of the sovereignty of Kosovo.

“There is an essential difference between elections and a referendum, so it is unacceptable to allow voting in Kosovo for a referendum in a neighboring country,” said Krasniqi.

Lumir Abdixhiku, chairman of Democratic League of Kosovo, also opposed the organization of the Serbian referendum in Kosovo.

His party considers unacceptable the holding of any referendum of another state on the national territory of Kosovo, he said.

“The Constitution of Kosovo, Kosovo laws and international practices are clear in this regard. We expect and support the full observance of these norms,” Abdixhiku said.

As Borrell said, the OSCE Mission has announced that it is ready to help with the votes of the referendum on  January 16.

The OSCE on Thursday also announced that it had received a request from the Serbian government to collect the votes of Serbian citizens living in Kosovo.

“The OSCE Mission in Kosovo received a formal request from the Serbian government on December 20 to conduct a vote-collection operation in the Serbian referendum on January 16. The mission has notified the Government of Kosovo and offered to carry out such an operation in the same conditions as it was done for the Serbian parliamentary elections of June 2020. These conditions include the consent of both parties,” OSCE declared.

 A statement from the embassies of the so-called “quint” countries, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, on January 14 called on Kosovo’s government to allow this process in accordance with established practice with OSCE.

“We call on the Kosovo government to allow Serbs in Kosovo to exercise their right to vote in elections and electoral processes in accordance with this established practice with OSCE,” it said.

They also called on both the governments of Kosovo and Serbia to refrain from actions and rhetoric that increase tension, and to engage constructively in the EU-facilitated Dialogue.

The Council for the Protection of Human Rights in Kosovo, CPHR, meanwhile urged the government not to allow Serbia to hold a referendum in Kosovo this Sunday.

“Holding or allowing the referendum by Serbia in Kosovo is related to the security and sovereignty of Kosovo, therefore the government of Kosovo should not allow in any way the violation of this sovereignty guaranteed by international law as required by the Constitution of Kosovo,” it said.

This is the first time that a government of Kosovo has opposed a voting process of Serbia taking place on its own territory. In past elections in Serbia, OSCE organized the voting process for majority-Serb municipalities in Kosovo. 

General elections will also take place on April 3 in Serbia; it remains to be seen whether Kosovo will oppose voting taking place in Kosovo for the latter as well.

15/01/2022 - 10:27

15 January 2022 - 10:27

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