Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, has urged Kosovo not to hold new mayoral elections in the north until more autonomy is granted to ethnic Serbs who form a local majority and boycotted a previous vote. Violence erupted in Kosovo’s north last week after ethnic Albanian mayors were installed in office in several Serb-majority municipalities after April local elections that drew a mere 3.5% turnout. In response to the unrest, Serbia placed its armed forces on highest combat alert and NATO sent reinforcements to its mission in Kosovo. The European Union and United States have urged Pristina to organise new elections in the Serb-majority area to defuse tensions, and Serbia to drop its combat alert and move troops away from the boundary with Kosovo.
However, Vucic said the authorities in Kosovo would need to make some concessions to ensure Serb participation in a new vote. A decade-old, European Union-brokered deal provided for Serbs in the north to establish an association of self-governing municipalities in exchange for recognising Kosovo institutions, but the accord has never been implemented. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said that if given greater autonomy under an association of municipalities, the Serb majority area could organise a referendum to rejoin Serbia. Vucic said Serbia was considering whether it to lower its combat readiness. « We will keep our troops on high alert, not the highest combat alert, because that costs a lot. »
The situation in Kosovo remains tense, with both Serbia and Kosovo accusing each other of interference. The international community is urging both sides to find a compromise solution to avoid further violence. The situation is being closely monitored by the European Union and the United States, who are both strong supporters of Kosovo.
Keywords: Serbia, Kosovo, mayoral elections, ethnic Serbs, autonomy, violence, combat alert, NATO, European Union, United States, association of self-governing municipalities, referendum, compromise solution.
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