Kosovo Office on the referendum: We are communicating with OSCE and Brussels – not Pristina institutions; The OSCE confirms it received Belgrade’s request

knacelarija za kim OSCE
Foto: KoSSev

The OSCE is ready to organize the Serbian referendum in Kosovo, but the Kosovo authorities did not give the „green light“ – the Kosovo Office was informed on December 22nd. It was followed by Belgrade’s appeal to Quint countries, Brussels and Lajcak, to enable the referendum to be held in Kosovo. This was confirmed by the Belgrade based Kosovo Office. The latter refuted the current information of the Kosovo authorities that the Serbian referendum polling in Kosovo would be carried out either by mail or through the Serbian Liaison Office in Pristina.  „Previous information from Pristina on the manner of voting of Serbian citizens is completely inaccurate and malicious,“ the Kosovo Office stated.

Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, said the Serbian voting would not take place in Kosovo. Moreover, RFE reported earlier this week, citing sources from the Kosovo government, that the Serbian referendum polling in Kosovo would be carried out either by mail or through the Serbian Liaison Office in Pristina.

Rozafa Kelmendi, a political adviser to Albin Kurti, confirmed the same information for the Voice of America this morning. Kelmendi also added that no one from Belgrade had reached out to them on the occasion.

Four days ahead of the referendum on constitutional changes in the Republic of Serbia, the Kosovo Office reminded of the previous practices and Resolution 1244 – that official Belgrade communicates through international missions – OSCE and EU.

“Reaching out to the OSCE mission with this request, the Kosovo Office acted in the same manner as it did years ago in accordance with all agreements and all previous election processes that have been organized in Kosovo, including the last election process in 2020,” the Office wrote in a press release.

„On the occasion of the referendum in the Republic of Serbia, the Kosovo Office sent a timely request to the OSCE Mission in Kosovo to operatively carry out the voting process on the ground, i.e. the referendum of the citizens of Serbia in the province, in accordance with its mandate.“

The OSCE’s response arrived on December 22nd.

„In accordance with the mandate entrusted to it, the OSCE is ready to organize a referendum in Kosovo, as it had done before, but that the authorities of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Pristina did not give the green light to conduct the referendum process in Kosovo,“ they stated.

The Kosovo Office then reached out to the Quint ambassadors, official Brussels, and the EU special representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak „with a clear request to enable a referendum to be held in Kosovo.“

At the same time, this Office describes Pristina’s response as a „spin“ and „violation of human rights“, while also alleging that the interpretations and messages of the Kosovo authorities are „completely incorrect and extremely malicious.“

„These facts, established procedures and long-term practice are well known to Pristina itself, which also knows quite well that all communication between Belgrade and Pristina goes through Brussels, that is, that the voting and the election process go through the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, in accordance with UNSCR 1244. Therefore, any information spread by Pristina that Belgrade did not reach out to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Pristina regarding the issue is completely malicious. The same Pristina is thus trying to cover the most direct violation of the human rights of Serbs in Kosovo – the decision to ban their right to vote.“

„The Liaison Office tasked to facilitate communication – not organize voting“

Moreover, the Kosovo Office claimed that Liaison Office is a „fictional institutional body“.

„We emphasize that such an institution does not exist on the ground, not in a single agreement, it exists exclusively in the imagination of Pristina politicians. The only thing that exists and functions according to the agreement from Brussels is the institution of liaison officer, whose mandate is neither to implement nor to organize a referendum, but to facilitate communication between Belgrade and Pristina.“

OSCE: “The Mission will carefully monitor the situation on the ground”

Deputy Spokesperson at OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Edita Bucaj, confirmed for KoSSev that the Serbian government sent a formal request to the OSCE to conduct a collection of ballots operation for the Serbian referendum on 16 January.

They revealed that they received this formal request on 20 December.

“The Mission informed the Kosovo Government and offered to conduct such an operation under the same conditions as was done for the Serbian parliamentary elections of June 2020. These conditions include consent from both parties,” OSCE stated in a written reply to KoSSev.

The mission, however, failed to specify whether they received a response from the Pristina government.

“The Mission will carefully monitor the situation on the ground,” OSCE stated.

So far, the campaign for the referendum has not been visible in Serbia or the Serb majority areas in Kosovo. Although the referendum voting in Serbia proper has been scheduled for January 16, Serbs in Kosovo have no official information on whether they will be allowed to vote in this referendum.

A member of the presidency of the SNS, Igor Mirovic, called on the citizens to vote in the referendum on Sunday, urging them to vote for the constitutional changes. Despite strong opposition from part of the public, the Serbian Parliament passed the Law on Referendum and People’s Initiative and the Law on Expropriation in November.

The main feature of the Law relates to the abolition of the election threshold for a successful referendum. No mandatory minimum of voters will be required for a referendum to be deemed valid. The law raised concerns among experts that it could result in the possible abuse of the will of the citizens. The government, however, has repeatedly denied such claims.

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