Kosovo wants snap elections to replace ethnic Serb mayors, tensions still high

With the EU noting that Kosovo and Serbia are on the edge of a major and unwanted escalation over controversial license-plate registration demands, Kosovo has made haste to organize snap elections to replace ethnic Serb mayors who have resigned from their positions in the north.

While logical, this move is unlikely to sooth tensions between the two states—and it also coincides with what appears to be documented abuse by Kosovo police against a Serb NGO activist who has the backing of a wide assortment of human rights NGOs.

With regard to the former, ethnic Serbs resigned en masse in early November, following the enforcement of new license plate rules that would see ethnic Serbs forced to replace Serb registration plates with Kosovo plates. This is a no-go subject for Serbs and for the Serbian government, which sees the issue as forcing through the recognition of Kosovo independence.

The mayors of North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavic and Zvecan were among those who resigned their posts in a show of solidarity with other ethnic Serbs. Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic backed the resignations and even suggested that all persons who have resigned will find jobs through the help of the Serbian government or within the Serbian government.

Yet the Kosovo government has also made its own moves, with Vucic rival Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti lobbying hard for Kosovo recognition as a separate state—and also with Kurti seemingly having the backing the EU and the US on this matter. At the same time, nothing is static on the ground, with the Kosovo Election Commission now planning snap elections in North Kosovo to replace the resigned mayors.

None of this is foreseen to go down well, especially as on Monday (14.11) the EU addressed both states, emphasizing dialogue that in the end got nowhere during a rushed meeting in Paris organized by the EU. This has also all taken place against the backdrop of UN KFOR officials noting a state of readiness should the head-butting spin out of control.

 And there are continued signs that the “process” is indeed on the wrong track. Apart from the “bigger picture” accusations, such as Kosovo drones being sent to the Serbian border—and Serb threats to shoot them down. Local tension is obvious—with this being made more evident by the declaration of no less than 26 organizations is Kosovo and Serbia that are now backing NGO leader Miodrag Milicevic, a Serb who reportedly suffered and assault by Kosovo special police.

Reportedly, Milicevic was stopped on Monday by policemen in military camouflage and then punched for failing to have Kosovo documents.

Kosovo police have denied the accusation, although both Kosovo and Serbia NGOs, as well as local and regional news organizations, including Balkan Insight (BIRN), have appeared to back Milicevic’s story.

File photo of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti by Arianit, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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