France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday urged Kosovo to allow new elections in four northern municipalities, amid renewed tensions with the area’s Serbian population.
In response, Kosovo‘s President Vjosa Osmani said she had told the European leaders that this would be possible under Kosovo law if the Serbian leadership in Belgrade did not encourage Serbs to boycott the poll.
The European leaders met Osmani and her Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic on the sidelines of the European Political Community summit in Moldova, hoping to head off further unrest in the region after recent clashes.
“We have asked the two parties to organise new elections in these four municipalities as soon as possible, with an undertaking from Kosovo with participation in these elections in a clear manner on the part of the Serbian side,” Macron said.
Kosovo is mainly populated by ethnic Albanians, but the Serbs who make up around six percent of the population have remained largely loyal to Belgrade, especially in the north where they are a majority.
Kosovo’s ethnic Serb minority boycotted April local elections in the north, allowing ethnic Albanians to take control of local councils despite a turnout of less than 3.5 percent
Many Serbs are demanding the withdrawal of both the mayors and Kosovo’s police — causing an increase in tensions that has led to violence both between the sides and against Kosovo’s NATO-led peacekeepers.
Washington and the EU are urging both sides to defuse tensions, and the French and German leaders chose to use the occasion of the EPC strategy summit in Moldova to get Osmani and Vucic around the table and to urge a new vote.
Osmani told reports that she had responded that Kosovo law allows a repeated vote if 20 percent of a district’s voters initiate a legal process.
“It’s a very democratic process. We allow our citizens to determine what they want new elections and, I believe without a problem, we can move forward with that, but we need participation from their side,” she said.
“Vucic was asked not to interfere, not to pressure citizens to not participate, but there was no answer from his side. But I do hope that the citizens will be allowed to use their rights that are guaranteed in Kosovo by the constitution.”