The head of the EU’s police force in Kosovo has condemned the violence that marred local elections in northern Kosovo on Sunday.
A group of Serb hardliners allegedly attacked a polling station in the ethnically-divided town of Mitrovica.
Bernd Borchardt, chief of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), said their actions were clearly designed to intimidate voters.
“Attacking a polling station is something, it is one of the worst things you can do in civil life. We are very glad that we have been able to bring the people back without major damage to health or life, and that we were able to bring the ballot boxes back,” said Borchardt.
Participation in the elections is central to an agreement reached in April to integrate the 40,000-50,000 Serbs living there with the rest of Kosovo, which is majority Albanian and declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
But a low turnout and violence were clear signs of the scale of resistance among north Kosovo Serbs to integrate with the rest of Kosovo.
“I think the elections came too soon. It is not the same thing living in the north of Kosovo as being in the south. For the last 10 years they (Serbs south of the river Ibar) live among Albanians and are used to that,” said Gradmir Raskic, an ethnic Serb who lives in Mitrovica.
Serbia had called on Serbs in northern Kosovo to take part for the first time, with the EU holding out the prospect of January membership talks, as a reward for Belgrade’s support for the process.