Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday that ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo will not participate in local elections due to be held later this month – a move likely to aggravate current disagreements over Pristina’s rule.
The four municipalities, which border Serbia, do not recognise authorities in Pristina and see Belgrade as their capital.
Serb officials from the area, administrative staff, judges, and policemen resigned collectively in November 2022, in protest over Pristina’s plan to replace Serbian car licence number plates with those of Kosovo.
The elections for municipal bodies were postponed in December 2022 after Serbs blocked roads and border crossings.
Representatives of Serbs from northern Kosovo, including the Belgrade-backed Serbian List party, want to see an association of Kosovo Serb municipalities set up before they take part in the vote.
“We agreed to continue working together…so that we could issue a joint statement about the elections that someone scheduled for April 23, in which Srpska Lista is not taking part,” Vucic said after meeting Serb representatives from northern Kosovo.
The creation of such an association is a key element of an agreement reached last month between the European Union, Serbia, and Kosovo, aimed at normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has repeatedly called on Serbs to participate in the local vote.
“The right of the Serb community to freely vote is essential (and) anyone who continues to violate this fundamental right has nothing to expect other than…the force of the law,” Kurti told Kosovo lawmakers on Thursday.
Pristina and Belgrade have been in EU-sponsored talks for nearly 10 years. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after a war that ended Serbian rule.
Serbia still regards Kosovo as a breakaway province and flare-ups of violence between the two have stoked fears of a return to conflict.