Kosovo – to vote or not to vote?

Belgrade’s position is that the elections must be conducted in a status neutral manner. Though the Kosovo government has said no decision has been made yet on the design of ballots, the US and EU should push Pristina to decide this issue soonest if the case for northern participation is to be made clear.

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By Gerard M. Gallucci

The decision facing the north Kosovo Serbs to participate or not in the scheduled November elections may be an existential one. Though the Kosovo Serb assembly held in Zvecan on August 16 voted against participation, almost everyone else wants them to vote. Belgrade has cautioned northern local leaders not to miss the opportunity. Early September is the deadline for registering lists.

In a August 14 meeting, Serbian President Nikolic told the assembled northern representatives that they should not expect any support or encouragement for an election boycott. He and Prime Minister Dacic have been making clear their belief that participation in the election is the best way to protect Serbs and Serbian interests in Kosovo. A presidential advisor explained to the press after the meeting: “we sent the message that the formation of status-neutral municipalities, that is municipalities established on the principles of status neutrality based on the agreement, should be the way we as a state and a nation will fight for our interests.” Nikolic reportedly warned that “we would only dream tomorrow about what we failed to do today.”

The northern Kosovo leadership seemed to have heard. After the meeting, Zvecan Mayor Milovic said the leaders were told that “the election would take place with us or without us.” Milovic noted that he personally already has made up his mind not to participate in the election. But he also suggested that “everyone alone will have to decide if they will accept the election or not, especially if the Republic of Kosovo is written on the ballot papers.” President of the Serb National Council Milan Ivanovic told the press that “we heard clear stands of the Serbian state leadership and we concluded we should come up with a definitive stand shortly.” He stressed the importance of “valid international documents” backed by UNSCR 1244 “with which all potential solutions must comply” and added that the election should also be discussed with Serbs living in southern Kosovo.

Meanwhile, EULEX and KFOR have been trying to create a sense of pending normalcy in the north. KFOR has stressed its unwillingness to settle political issues through use of force. EULEX has agreed with the northern (Serb) regional commander of the Kosovo Police to pick as a practical issue for joint cooperation one that will have local support, efforts against illegal logging (often done by Kosovo Albanians). Pristina has been making noises about the slow and incomplete process of abolishing Serb “parallel structures” in the north and has set a September 30 deadline for their closing. (There seems to be continuing differences between the two sides over how – and how many – Serbian police and court officials would be integrated into a “Kosovo” structure. There also remains no apparent decision on the boundary of North Mitrovica.) But neither side has done anything significant to provoke the other and Pristina “welcomed” Belgrade’s efforts to implement the election agreement.

There had been suggestions that no more than 20% of northern Serbs would vote. The effect of the Zvecan assembly decision may make it even more difficult for northern Serbs to participate but it may not yet bind the leaders who met with Nikolic. Or, they may choose to sit it out and let others lead the way. It’s interesting to note that after the Belgrade meeting both Milovic and Ivanovic hinted at the importance of conducting an election in a status neutral manner, the position Belgrade has taken as well. The Kosovo government has said no decision has been made yet on the design of ballots. The US and EU should push Pristina to decide this issue soonest if the case for northern participation is to be made clear.

Some in the north may still place their bets on winning the day by refusing to play. But Hamlet’s dilemma (in Shakespeare’s play), may serve too for the northerners: “To be, or not to be, that is the question. In this case, voting in a status-neutral election might mean living to fight another day?

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. He will serve as Diplomat-in-Residence at Drake University for the 2013-14 school year.

To read TransConflict’s policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in responding to this article, please do not hesitate to contact us by clicking here.

To learn more about both Serbia and Kosovo, please check out TransConflict’s reading lists series by clicking here.

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35 Responses

  1. Fadil

    Serbs in the north could be either cheated or cheat themselves for the so called “status-neutral elections”. There is no such possibility. The April’s agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is very clear – elections will be held BASED on Kosovo laws. Even if ballots don’t have anything of Kosovo symbols, doesn’t change the fact that Serbs will vote in independent state of Kosovo. As long as Serbs do not grasp that, there will be more problems for them, not for Albanians.

    1. brian

      Not voting in Bosnia would lead to an autonomous Serb republic with executive powers. Serbs in Kosovo should wait for that and boycott these elections that are all about Serbs recognizing Kosovo independence and abolishing all Serb autonomy because even the association of Serb municipalities has to conform to all pristina laws and the Serb police commander answers to pristina not Belgrade and can’t even be elected by Serbs! He was chosen by Albanians

      1. Fadil

        Serbs in Kosovo may choose to boycott the elections. It will be their problem and will continue their agony. Everybody visiting Serbia, particularly southern part can see how empty is that region while sees how crowd is while entering Kosovo may realize that Serbian boycott will harm them, not the Albanians. Serbs in the north may shorten their agony by being part of Kosovo society. The best example is situation with the Serbs in southern part of Kosovo (majority of Serbs) who accepted the reality and participate actively in Kosovo institutions.

        Actually, something that all the time was criticized from Gallucci was wrong. Today, Serbian prime Dacic openly threatened Serbian leaders in Kosovo who are calling for boycott so they could be replaced if still insist boycotting the elections of 3rd November. The pressure form the EU works perfectly. Serbia, simply has no choice – must accept the reality or face total destruction. Serbian leaders in Serbia are not so stupid to play with the fate of 7 million people for just 40K Kosovo northern Serbs.

        1. Brian

          Tthe Serbs in north Kosovo still go by serbias constitution that says Kosovo is a part of Serbia. Serbia can totally abolish Kosovo being in ifs constitution today and tell all serbs through Serbia’s constitution that Kosovo serbs no longer live in Serbai! For some reason it refuses to remove Kosovo from its constitution and that tells serbs in the north to continue to be loyal to Serbia and vote in Serbia for Belgrade run elections or their own autonomous institutions. Serbs in south Kosovo don’t count because they are surrounded by Albanian death squads and are protected by nato only if they recognize Kosovo independence. Serbs is south Kosovo either they move or they recognize Kosovo independence or they are dead. So serbs in north Kosovo don’t have to worry about Albanian death squads like the KLA so they can continue to oppose Kosovo independence unlike the serbs in the south and conform to the Serbian constitution which says Kosovo is a part of Serbia. Dacic is one of most strident of supporters of Kosovo independence for Serbia EU membership but that unconstitutional and treasonous. So of course he says for Serbs to vote in these pro independence elections. Belgrade must organize the elections and appoint the police commander.

  2. brian

    Any Serb that votes has to be seen as supporting Kosovo independence. ballots with Kosovo symbols? Kosovo political parties? Registering in Kosovo? They are members of Serbia political Parties! They are registered in Serbia!

    1. Gerard Gallucci

      I’ve been informed that one north Kosovo Serb who went to Pristina recently in order to register his group for the elections was denied for failure to present a list of 120 supporters with Kosovo ID. He noted that this went against Belgrade assurances that they could register with Serbian IDs. Pristina authorities responded that it was irrelevant what Serbia said, they were working according to Kosovo Law. If this report is accurate and Washington and Brussels allow it to stand, there will be no status neutrality in the elections and they will almost certainly fall flat. Could this be Pristina’s real plan?

      1. Fadil

        Gerard,

        Where you do see “status neutrality” in the April’s agreement?? Its very clear – elections will be held BASED on Kosovo laws. There is no single word in the agreement mentioning “status neutrality”.

        1. Troll Hunter

          Hey Troll Fadil, it’s not about Kosovo “laws” or “republic”, it’s about peacekeeping and politics — both are the art of the possible and not dreams.

          1. Fadil

            Troller,

            Do you understand SIMPLY English or not?? The Agreement Kosovo – Serbia is MORE THAN CLEAR. Elections will be held BASED ON KOSOVO LAWS. It doesn’t matter at ALL whether somebody says “the laws of Republic of Serbia” vs “laws of Serbia”. It is ABSOLUTELY THE SAME THING and hence It doesn’t matter at ALL whether somebody says “laws of Republic of Kosovo” or “laws of Kosovo”. Can you grasp such a simple thing or not??

        2. Serbia agreed to pristina run elections and if an election is pristina run that it is run by pristina law. A big problem is dacic and vucic keep lying about what they agree to in order to prevent treason charges because Kosovo is still part of serbias constitution and therefore serb laws should apply there! But these elections are all Pristina run so of course Pristina says all serbs must have Kosovo IDs. They are pristina run elections and Serbia agreed to that. Serbia didn’t even say ballots couldn’t even say Republic of Kosovo!

          1. Fadil

            I do not understand why you guys cheat yourself??!! Who do you expect at all?? Do you really think that Serbian leaders can play with the fate of 7 million people in Serbia for just 40,000 Serbs in northern Kosovo?? Do you really think that our planet Earth will start rotating in another direction or what?

  3. PEN

    Careful guys, hysterical little fadil is frothing at the mouth again. He’s a prime example of democracy ‘Kosova’ albanian style. Disagree with him, and he’ll go all madcaps and exclamation marks, reminding you ad-neuseum of how irrelevant your opinions are. The truth is that present day ‘Kosova’ is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, and that’s probably what hurts him the most. Personally I think that every single Serb with any connection to Kosmet however far back should vote and form their own polity, and by so doing blocking anything against their interests enacted in Pristina. Form a powerful block. That would really terrify the mob in charge there. Get the local internationals on your side. In a way you can’t blame Belgrade for what it’s doing. There is no other option but Europe if Serbia is ever to recover and have a future, however unpalatable that may appear to some.

    1. Fadil

      PEN,

      If anybody is not calm and impatient than its you. I understand how much it hurts you the reality – empty and destroyed Serbia. This is reality that matters and indeed your opinion has no sense nor creates any special feelings, not to mention “hysteria”. I can understand your pain for such a situation but you have to blame your leaders, yourself and people like you, being enemy of the whole world because of committed crimes and genocide to the others. Now, the time is to pay the bill for such activities. Even Aleksandar Vucic (Serbian vice premier) mentioned that. So why I should be “hysterical”?? No, its my satisfaction that people like feel pain for what your criminal state of Serbia did.

      You may continue dreaming and hysterically blame Kosovo but this is just a virtual war, which is already lost. Time works for Kosovo and its people. Just go and visit Kosovo and Serbia and you will witness it with your eyes.

      Serbs in Kosovo may participate or not in Kosovo elections. Its absolutely their problem. There is good news today that majority of Serbs living in southern part of river Ibar just decided to participate in the coming elections and in independent and sovereign Kosovo. Fortunately, Serbs in Kosovo became aware that listening what Serbian extremists advice them will harm them, not the Albanians. So you are unfortunate PEN. You are lost. This is good news.

      1. Brian

        Serbs in the south are surrounded by Albanian death squads the KLA so of course they do recognize Kosovo independence and always have. They were always going to go along with the current Serbian government policy of strident support for Kosovo elections held on ballots with Republic of Kosovo on them but the Serbian constitution still says Kosovo is a part of Serbia so North Kosovo Serbs vote in Serbia not on ballots with Republic of Kosovo because they live in Serbia. The only thing Serbia has to do is remove Kosovo from its constitution and all disputes and controversy will be over. So why wont Dacic Vucuc vulin nikolic do this? They have all the support in the majority support in Serbia and serbs in Kosovo? All for the 40,000 in the north? Why wont Serbia remove Kosovo from its constitution and recognize Kosovo independence tomorrow?

  4. PEN

    What I have to say makes you uncomfortable doesn’t it little fadil. Otherwise you wouldn’t expend so much energy and bile responding. If you were comfortable in your skin you’d remaim silent and move on. The truth hurts doesn’t it little fadil. Your manic insecurity is palpable. You’re an amusing little fellow though. Good to see you’re still around spouting off! LOL.

    1. Fadil

      No need to argue anything with you PEN. You are simply lost in time and space. Oh sorry, you don’t understand this if I can recall that.Actually the theory of relativity is so strange for you, isn’t it? This means that small or big is something you need to understand properly as you are totally functionally illiterate in this regard. Don’t take anything personally while arguing. Its simply wasting of time arguing with you. What matters is presenting FACTS – relevant ones. And yes, I am very comfortable, NEVER and EVER better in my life. You simply can’t imagine happiness not to be under your criminal state of Serbia. All the world is not worth than being out of your reach. So why I should be “uncomfortable” while I and ALL other Albanians are so happy to be free from criminal state of Serbia???

      So just continue your miserable world, full of hatred. Go and visit psychiatric clinic and get healed from your sick mind. Meanwhile I will respond and continue contributing to share the truth against liars and manipulators as well as megalomaniacs like you. As I said in my previous comments, the good thing is that majority of Serbs understand how much they inflict themselves being under propaganda and believe lies of people like you. It makes me too happy to know that. What miserable people like you say is just collection of words written in water and nothing more.

  5. PEN

    It’s heartening to READ that you’re comfortable. NEVER and EVER better in your life. But then I SUPPOSE bumming around eating kebabs and sipping espresso all day EVERY day!!!!! posting BS!!! that nobody PAYS the least attention to!!! must be therapeutic FOR you!?!?. Am I RIGHT little fadil?!?! FACTS!?! Yes the WORLD according to little fadil!!!! LOL!

    1. Fadil

      PEN,

      I forgive your functional illiteracy in physics. You may have learned good English but you are totally illiterate in other aspects of life. You don’t see facts?? I told you, you are BLIND. What was Agrobanka, NIS, “patriotic stealing”. Kollubara, Darko Saric and tones of cocaine, Zemun clan and their cannibalism (such cannibals killed and ate their friend) and thousands of such cases??? Are these FACTS or what?? Do they prove or not how criminal country is Serbia?? Accept at least ONCE in your life – the era of lies and propaganda is ended.

      1. PEN

        Given that I was born in England, it follows that I should have at least made the effort to ‘learn good English’ you silly Balkan peasant. But then you seem to assume that anybody who has the temerity to disagree with your BS must be a Serb. Not quite sure what ‘functional illiteracy in physics’ means though. Anything to do with your erectile dysfunction? Keep dreaming about a greater Albania little fadil. Sure that’ll give you a hard on. Racial supremacists like you never learn. It won’t happen. Even the yanks will grow weary of your crap in the end.

        1. Fadil

          You maybe are born in England but you are worst Serbian extremist than those in Serbia itself. I do not care at all if someone does not agree with me neither need to take into account my opinion. What I need is just TRUTH and FACTS. Its true that Serbia was and is most criminal state. It is a fact that criminality and corruption is something totally related to Serbia and by VERY STRONG evidence, not by propagandists and liars. Functional illiteracy in physics means that you are not absolutely mature to grasp what is small and what is big, what is good and what is bad. Given that you “are not sure” what was my point PERFECTLY proves what I am saying – you are functionally illiterate. Your world is very small.

          I told you many times, I can understand perfectly your pain and let me say that its a joy to see people like you feeling pain atomic PEN. People full of hatred, like you, do not deserve anything else. So who cares at all about your “predictions” on what yanks or anybody else will do. You are indeed behaving like a little boy, angry because of being beaten hard, and unable to do anything, just start threatening and offending. Who cares at all about your threats, offense? Your not even at atomic scale. You are at electron level.

          1. PEN

            ‘Atomic PEN.’ I like that! I think that will be my new nom de guerre. Thanks little fadil! You’re not as dumb as I thought you were. On another matter though, It appears that certain Albanian political non entities in the Balkans are plugging a petition for a ‘natural Albania.’ (you know the greater Albania that you and your pals have wet dreams over) I bet your signature’s the first on the list little fadil. No, I think I’ve changed my mind. ‘Electron PEN’ I’ll get back to you on which moniker I prefer!

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