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news 13 Mar 12

Update: Serbia Includes Kosovo in Local Elections

In a last-minute twist Belgrade has decided to include Kosovo in its forthcoming round of local elections, risking a clash with its EU friends.

Bojana Barlovac

After months of mulling whether to risk its future EU hopes, Serbia has decided to include Kosovo in the next round of local elections to be held on May 6.

The Speaker of Parliament, Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, said that Belgrade was going ahead with the controversial move because "We have an obligation to respect the Serbian Constitution and Resolution 1244".

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since been recognised by most EU countries as well as the US.

But Serbia's 2006 Constitution defines Kosovo as a province of Serbia. Article 182 states that Serbia has two autonomous provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija.

UN Resolution 1244 in 1999 authorised the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Kosovo but did not prejudice Serbia's claim to the territory.

The announcement by the speaker on Tuesday was a surprise because on Monday Oliver Ivanovic, State Secretary in the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo, said it would be impossible to extend elections to Kosovo without adopting a special law.

"In the present circumstances, the adoption of such a law would be inconsistent with the constitution," Ivanovic said on Monday.

Belgrade has been split between a desire to please nationalists and hold elections in Kosovo or please Brussels and the international community, which have opposed the idea.

Brussels, which granted Serbia candidate status on March 1, has conditioned future progress towards accession talks on Serbia's further progress in talks with Kosovo.

Serbia organised both parliamentary and local elections in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo in 2008, but the UN authority in Kosovo, UNMIK, as well as the Kosovo government, condemned them as illegitimate.

Both general and local elections are scheduled to be held on May 6.

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