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news 13 Jan 14

Serb Turns Down North Kosovo Mayor's Post

Krstimir Pantic has refused to take office as mayor of Mitrovica, slamming the November local elections in Kosovo as “a major scam by the international community”.

BIRN Belgrade

Pantic on Saturday refused to sign a document endorsing the oath of office to become mayor of the northern Kosovo town, a position he secured at local elections in November that were seen as crucial to both Serbia’s and Kosovo’s EU ambitions.

“By signing below a text where the coat of arms of Kosovo appears, suggesting that Kosovo is a republic, I would violate the constitution of Serbia,” Pantic told Serbia daily paper Vecernje Novosti on Monday.

He went on to say that the local elections, which were organised by the OSCE and purportedly ‘status neutral’, were “a major scam by the international community”.

Pantic, who is a member of Serbia’s ruling Progressive party, also resigned as deputy director of the Serbian government's office for Kosovo on Saturday.

“As I do not want to inflict any damage to the Serbian government and citizens of Serbia by my actions, I hereby submit an irrevocable resignation from the position of deputy director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija,” Pantic said in a written statement.

The Serbian minister without portfolio in charge of Kosovo, Aleksandar Vulin, said that he expected that Kosovo’s central election commission would make a ruling about Pantic’s failure to take office, which could spark new elections for the Mitrovica mayoral post.

“This is not something we needed at the moment, to spend energy on new elections,” Vulin told news agency Tanjug.

Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic said that it was important to find a solution as soon as possible.

“I do not think that we are facing a crisis since the North Mitrovica municipal assembly has been constituted, given that 17 out of 19 councillors have signed the statements [agreeing to take office],” Ivanovic said, adding that he hoped that the remaining two councillors would do the same in the coming days.

Pantic’s move came in the wake of delays to the inauguration of municipal assemblies in northern Kosovo and small protests by local Serbs opposed to the Brussels-backed agreement on normalising relations which Belgrade and Pristina signed in April last year.

The implementation of the agreement is a key precondition for the two countries’ further progress towards the EU.

Serbia is due to start EU accession talks on January 21.

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