Serbia is preparing to go to the polls on Sunday for the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections.
While ethnic Serbs in Kosovo were allowed to vote in previous elections, polling stations will remain closed across the territory on Sunday
Prime Minister Albin Kurti says constituents can only cast their ballets at a liaison office and maintains Kosovo and Serbia need to have a preliminary agreement on holding the election to permit voting.
The US and the four European countries criticised Kosovo’s rejection of what they called their “constructive proposal” in March for allowing the Balkan nation’s ethnic Serb minority to vote in Serbia’s election.
They did not say what the rejected proposal entailed.
A bloody 1998-1999 bloody conflict between Serbia and Albanian separatists in Kosovo, then a Serbian province, left more than 12,000 people dead and about 1,600 still missing.
NATO’s intervention in the form of a bombing campaign on Serbia ended the war.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognised by the United States and most EU nations.
However, Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo as separate nation after 11 years of EU-brokered negotiations.
Ethnic-Serbs in Mitrovica, northern Kosovo spoke to Euronews and said they felt abandoned by Serbia’s government.
“This can only happen to us, thanks to those from down south” said one man. When asked, who he was referring to, he stressed, “it is well known who. To those who are bothered, we are a nuisance to them, we are a nuisance to the whole world”.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Mitrovica on the 25th of March with anti-government banners and signs to pressure the government into allowing them to vote in neighbouring Serbia’s April 3rd elections.
“All these people (Serbs) who live here (in North Mitrovica), and those who live in the south went through a lot and now after the Brussels agreement we have a situation that we are still afraid for our lives, the lives of our families and children” said Goran Rakić, Minister for Communities and Returns to the government of Kosovo.
Most of Kosovo’s ethnic Serb population lives north of Mitrovica, close to Serbia’s border.
Following these demonstrations, locals hope Sunday’s election will not fuel renewed tensions, “we hope it will be peaceful, always and forever. No one needs a war, absolutely no one”, a local man told Euronews.
People with Serbian citizenship will be able to travel across the border to vote in the election but, political analyst Bardhyl Meta says “Kosovo’s Serbs will never be comfortable if they are guided a narrative that comes from Belgrade. If they do not have a voice, a mission of their own, for life here, for their rights, then they will never be comfortable”.