Kosovo refused to open polling centers for Serbia’s referendum

Kosovo’s Prime Minister argued ethnic Serbs should vote by mail or in Serbia’s representative office. The European Union and the United States urged Kosovo to allow Serbs to exercise their right to vote.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti told parliament that polling stations for ethnic Serbs would be against Kosovo’s constitution | © Kenzo Tribouillard via Reuters, April 2021

Kosovo’s parliament on January 15 passed a resolution banning ethnic Serbs from voting on Kosovan soil in Serbia’s national referendum on constitutional amendments.

A majority of Kosovan deputies voted in favor of banning Serbia from opening polling centers in Kosovo for Serbia’s referendum on January 16.

The referendum was on amendments to the constitution that would change how judges and prosecutors are elected. It would strengthen the independence of the justice system and enhance its transparency which are conditions for European Union membership. Serbia approved the changes in the constitution with 60% of the votes in favor.

Serbia became a candidate for accessing the EU in 2012 and may join the Union by 2025. Serbia still considers Kosovo as part of its territory but has pledged to normalize relations before joining the European Union.

Kosovo declared its independence in 2008.

Kosovo claims opening polling centers for Serbia’s referendum would be against its sovereignty

The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and the EU in a joint statement on January 14 urged Prime Minister Albin Kurti to allow Serbs in Kosovo to vote in the referendum. “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.

Kosovo police confiscated two trucks of the Serbian election commission transporting ballot papers as they crossed the border to head towards Serb-majority areas on January 15.

Serbia has been used to organizing elections for its ethnic Serbs in Kosovo since the civil war ended in 1999.

For Albin Kurti, “Kosovo is an independent and sovereign state and should be treated as such“. As a consequence, ethnic Serbs who live in Kosovo should vote by mail or in Belgrade’s government liaison office. The prime minister told parliament that polling stations for Serbia’s referendum would be against Kosovo’s constitution.

For the head of Serbian Office for Cooperation with Kosovo, the ban was aimed at “annulling political and civic rights of Serbs (in Kosovo)“.

Serbia will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on April 3.

Read more about Serbia

Joint Statement on Serbia’s National Referendum, U.S. Department of State, January 2022, Free access

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