A referendum being held in northern Kosovo is aimed at finding out whether the territory’s Serbs are willing to accept living under the authority of the Kosovar government.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, but neither Belgrade nor the Serbs living in Kosovo recognised the self-proclaimed republic.
In this context, the result of the referendum to be concluded this Wednesday will not be legally binding.
One voter said: “We simply don’t want to accept this.”
Another said: “I voted for survival.”
A third said: “What does the referendum mean for Serbs? It means everything – keeping our homes.”
Serbs in northern Kosovo are defiant. They say they will prevent the Pristina central government, recognised by around 90 countries, including many but not all of the EU members, from consolidating a hold in their part of the ethnic-Albanian-dominated nascent statelet.
Against a historical backdrop of conflict with Serbian forces that drove roughly a million ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, today Belgrade is in talks with Pristina to preserve Serbia’s aim of joining the EU.
The mayor of the Serb part of the divided city of Mitrovica, Krstimir Pantic, said:
“Unlike the Kosovo Albanians, who use violence and the force of arms, we prefer the power of the pen. I expect people to accept responsibility for themselves and their families, and that the international community will change its attitude towards Kosovo.”
Violence here, in which NATO peace-keeping troops were hurt last year, put back Serbia’s EU candidacy bid in December.
euronews envoy Michel Dos Santos said: “Kosovo’s Serbs are saying whether or not they are ready to bow to the self-proclaimed Kosovar administrative authority, with rejection a near certainty, which suggests that a permanent solution is still a long way away.”