The President of Kosovo, Fyuza Osmani, has announced that early local elections in 4 municipalities in the north of the country will be postponed to April 2023, after the withdrawal of Serbs from local institutions due to recent developments related to license plates.
Osmani, who met representatives of political parties regarding the early local elections in the municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavic and Zvecan, which were scheduled for December 18, made statements after the meeting.
Osmani said he received a joint risk assessment report from the Kosovo Police and the Kosovo Intelligence Agency (AKI).
Osmani explained that they agreed with representatives of political parties to monitor the dangerous situation and assess the security situation in the north, and then meet again to negotiate according to the situation:
At today’s meeting, I made a motion to postpone the elections for mayors and city councilors based on these assessments, including the security report I received from the institutions. After discussions about the date, we have come to the conclusion that the elections will be postponed to April 2023 with full agreement.”
Osmani stated that although the Kosovo police have sufficient capacity to provide security regarding the incidents and explosions that occurred in the north of the country in recent days, the masked gangs in the region managed to intimidate the citizens and make them not feel free to vote.
Local Serb citizens blocked the way
It was reported that during the day local Serb citizens parked their trucks and vehicles and blocked the road in Rudari near Zvecan municipality.
The Kosovo Police therefore closed the Järenje border gate to crossings and asked the public to use other border gates.
Serbia Petar Petković, Director of the Kosovo Government Office, stated that the road closures were due to the detention of a Serb, Dejan Pantic, a former member of the Kosovo Police.
Kosovo’s Interior Minister Khelal Svechla said Pantik, who was arrested as a suspect in the bombings in the north, is accused of committing acts of terrorism and attacking the constitutional order.
Yesterday, Svicla announced an increase in the presence of security forces in the Serb-populated areas in the north of the country.
Explosions in northern Kosovo
Explosions and sirens were heard in some cities in the north on December 6, ahead of early local elections scheduled for December 18 in 4 municipalities in northern Kosovo.
EULEX forces have increased their presence on the Iberian bridge that connects the southern and northern sides of Mitrovica.
Officials from the Kosovo Central Election Commission (KQZ) went to their offices in the north, escorted by the Kosovo Police, but were unable to enter.
According to the Kosovo Police statement, stun grenades, grenades and firearms were used in the explosions, which continued on 7 December.
While there were no injuries in the incidents, the offices of the Municipal Elections Commission were damaged.
Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia
The Government of Kosovo, in line with the principle of reciprocity with Serbia at the end of July, on the issue of “issuing temporary permit forms to those entering/exiting Kosovo with Serbian identity cards” and “converting license plates issued by the Serbian authorities to Serbs in Kosovo to ‘RKS’ (Republic of Kosovo) registration plates”. Announce that the decisions will come into force.
The Serbs in Kosovo reacted to this and closed the border crossings in the north of the country, and tensions rose in the country.
The Kosovo government decided to postpone the implementation, which caused the crisis, until September 1, on the condition that all the barriers that had been placed on the roads leading to the border gates with Serbia be removed.
Finally, the Kosovo side stated that the process of re-registering license plates, which they described as “illegal”, has been postponed to April 2023, and that owners of such vehicles will first be warned, then fined, and finally be placed.
The two sides reached an agreement on November 23, mediated by the European Union, to de-escalate tensions and move toward normalizing relations.
Serbia considers Kosovo, which unilaterally declared its independence in 2008, to be its territory.
The Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue process, initiated in 2011 with the mediation of the European Union, aims to normalize relations and eventual recognition of each other between the two countries.
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