| 21:49 - 07.10.2013

Kosovo, Serbia to Tackle Poll Row in Brussels

As a dispute with Serbia over Kosovo’s local elections escalates, the prime ministers of both countries are to meet in Brussels on Monday to try to resolve the issue.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said Hashim Thaci of Kosovo and Ivica Dacic of Serbia would meet in Brussels on Monday to tackle the vexed issue of Kosovo’s local elections.

“The purpose of the meeting is to review progress on implementation [of the deal between the two neighbours] in the run-up to the municipal elections of 3 November in Kosovo,” Kocijancic said.

A crisis flared on Wednesday after authorities in Pristina announced they would ban Dacic and other Serbian officials from visiting Kosovo during the course of the election campaign, i.e., until November 1.

In the local elections in Kosovo authorities in Belgrade are urging Serbian voters to entrust a new citizens’ initiative, called “Srpska”, rather than the Independent Liberal Party, an ethnic Serbian party that is part of the current Kosovo government.

Dacic then threatened to quit EU-led talks with Kosovo if Pristina did not rescind the ban on visits by Serbian politicians.

The EU Special Representative in Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar, said that the decision of the Kosovo government, and Serbia’s subsequent threats, highlighted the degree of “nervousness” on both sides. “We need to drop the tension a bit and think and find a solution,” Zbogar said.

Meanwhile, an opposition party in Serbia, the nationalist Democratic Party of Serba, DSS, has launched a campaign in Serbia against Serbian participation in the Kosovo elections.

“We want to encourage people, especially those in the four [mainly] Serbian municipalities in the north of Kosovo, to boycott these shameful elections,” Slobodan Samardzic, of the DSS, said on Friday.

The election was supposed to mark the first time that everyone in Kosovo, Serbs included, would be taking part in nationwide polls.

Kosovo last held local elections in November 2009, but the vote was boycotted in northern Serb-run municipalities, where local leaders were elected in a separate vote organised by Belgrade. BIRN


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