Serbian Party In Northern Kosovo Announces Boycott Of Municipal Elections

By RFE/RL's Balkan Service

The Serbian List party of Kosovo says it will not take part in snap elections scheduled to take place next month for mayors of four Serb-majority municipalities in the northern part of Kosovo.

The announcement on November 15 came a day after Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani set December 18 as the date of the snap elections in the municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavic, and Zvecan.

The mayors of the municipalities -- all from the Serbian List, which is the strongest party backed by Belgrade representing Kosovo's Serb minority -- resigned on November 5, in opposition to the decision of the government of Kosovo to start the process of re-registering cars that have illegal Serbian license plates.

The Serbian List said both the party and the citizens who support it will boycott the elections.

Osmani said the decision to announce extraordinary elections is a "constitutional obligation" that follows the resignation of the four mayors.

The head of the office for Kosovo in the Serbian government, Petar Petkovic, said the elections are "destined to fail."

In addition to the mayors of the four municipalities, other Serbian officials have also resigned from Kosovar institutions, including police officers in the north, in opposition to the government's plan to re-register cars.

The plan envisages cars with Serb license plates to be re-registered by April 21. Serbia objects, insisting the license plates, which date to the 1990s when Kosovo was a part of Serbia, are neutral to the status of Kosovo.

Kosovar authorities started the implementation of the license-plate conversion plan on November 1 despite calls from the international community to postpone it.

During the first phase, Kosovo authorities issued warnings to people driving the vehicles with Serbian plates. As of November 21, violators will face a fine of 150 euros.

The conversion of the plates is to take place in phases lasting through April 21. Vehicles that have not changed their plates by then will be impounded, according to the government decree issued late last month.

The European Union has urged Kosovo to allow more time for the phaseout. The United States and NATO have also cautioned Kosovo against unilateral actions that could lead to the further escalation of tensions.

Kosovo's chief negotiator in talks with Serbia, Besnik Bislimi, was holding talks on November 15 in Brussels with the European Union's special envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak.

EU spokesman Peter Stano told reporters the meeting was one of the steps Brussels is taking to try to find a solution to the tensions.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned Serbia and Kosovo on November 14 that they are on a precipice and must resolve their dispute before next week or face the prospect of a return to their violent past.

"We cannot reach this date without having an agreement or we will be on the edge of a dangerous situation," Borrell told reporters in Brussels.

With reporting by AP