Kosovo bans Serbian vote on constitutional changes on its soil


Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti gives a joint press conference with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (not pictured) at the EEAS building in Brussels, Belgium April 29, 2021. Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS

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PRISTINA, Jan 15 (Reuters) – Kosovo’s parliament on Saturday passed a resolution banning ethnic Serbs from voting on Kosovo soil in the Serbian nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments.

Serbia will hold a referendum on Sunday on amendments to the constitution that would change the way judges and prosecutors are elected, a move the government says is aimed at ensuring the independence of the judiciary, a prerequisite for joining the the EU.

Supporters of Kosovo independence – the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy and the EU mission – have urged Prime Minister Albin Kurti to allow Kosovo Serbs to vote in the referendum.

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But in an extraordinary session on Saturday afternoon, 76 out of 120 lawmakers voted in favor of a statement banning Serbia from opening polling centers in Kosovo.

Kurti told parliament that establishing polling stations in Serb-majority areas of Kosovo would be unconstitutional and that ethnic Serbs could vote by mail or at the Belgrade government’s liaison office in Pristina.

“Kosovo is an independent and sovereign state and should be treated as such,” Kurti said.

Serbia, which still considers Kosovo part of its territory, has held elections for its ethnic kin since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999.

Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence but has pledged to normalize relations with its former breakaway province before joining the EU.

The head of the Serbian Office for Cooperation with Kosovo said the ban was intended to “nullify the political and civil rights of Serbs (in Kosovo)”.

“Kurti and his extremists must not think that in the future they will succeed in banning Kosovo Serbs from voting, especially in the April 3 elections,” Petar Petkovic said in a statement.

Serbia is holding presidential and parliamentary elections on April 3.

Early on Saturday, Kosovo police confiscated two Serbian election commission trucks carrying ballot papers as they crossed the border at Merdare on their way to Serb-majority areas.

“We call on the government of Kosovo to allow Kosovo Serbs to exercise their right to vote in elections and electoral processes in accordance with this established practice,” said Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom , the US and the EU in their joint statement. Friday.

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Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Ros Russell

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