Kosovo is voting in local elections. The poll is considered a crucial test of the readiness of Kosovo and Serbia – two former foes – to move closer to EU membership.
Serbs are the majority in the northern part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. Here, election posters are mixed with slogans branding the vote as treason.
As part of an EU deal between the two countries, Serbia has given up its legal authority over the territory. In exchange Kosovo will let four Serb-controlled areas of northern Kosovo have some autonomy.
Dragoljub Ilic, a Serbian resident of Mitrovica, told euronews: “Pristina has called for elections but we go out to vote because of Serbia. I think this is Serbia and we have to come out and vote and show that this is Serbia.”
In the southern part of Mitrovica, where ethnic Albanians form the majority, voters will elect a mayor whose authority does not extend beyond the Ibar river that divides the town.
Lavdim Jola, an Albanian resident of Mitrovica appears optimistic: “I think it is the return to what Mitrovica was in the past [united]. I think people have started thinking differently and that the change will be positive.”
On Saturday, the Kosovan president urged voters on both sides of the ethnic divide to cast their ballots in an effort to integrate. However tensions remain high.
Some 1.8 million people are taking to the polls.