Serbian Referendum in Kosovo, First Incident Recorded at Border

The Office for Kosovo in the Government of Serbia announced on Friday evening that an official of the Republican Election Commission was detained at the Merdare border crossing, between Kosovo and Serbia, who tried to import election materials in Kosovo for the next referendum in Serbia, which will be held on January 16th.  According to the announcement, the coordinator of this Commission, Marko Jankovic, was accompanied by two trucks transporting election material, regarding which "the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Kosovo was notified".  Among other things, the announcement said that the Kosovo Police confiscated the two trucks and arrested the Commission official, as well as the truck drivers.

The announcement also said that the Commission official was sent "in an unknown direction". European officials have also been notified about this issue.  "The OSCE Mission in Kosovo was obliged tonight to take over the election material in accordance with its mandate on the ground, but also the readiness expressed for the organization of the referendum, about which we were informed in a letter dated 22 December last year.

However, tonight the OSCE mission, not only did not take over the referendum material but also did not show up in Merdare, where it had to take the material, as has been done every time so far in previous election processes," stated the notice.  The Kosovo Police and the OSCE have not yet commented on these developments. Kosovo institutions said on Friday that the opening of Serbian polling stations in Kosovo is a violation of the constitution and laws of Kosovo. 

They said that Kosovo Serb citizens, with dual citizenship, will be able to vote for the referendum in Serbia according to international practices, which in this case, according to them, means opportunities through the post office or the Liaison Office in Pristina.  Earlier on January 14, officials from France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union said they regretted the Kosovo Government's decision not to allow the OSCE to collect votes in Kosovo for the referendum in Serbia. They called on the Government of Kosovo to allow Serbs in Kosovo to exercise their right to vote in elections and electoral processes in accordance with this established practice. 

The leaders of the Presidency, Government and Assembly of Kosovo have called on the Quint countries to apply the same standards in relation to Kosovo as with any other state, given that its independence is recognized by many democratic countries in the world. The referendum on amendments to the Constitution of Serbia will be held on Sunday, January 16th.  The changes concern the judiciary and Serbia is obliged to them in the process of membership in the European Union.

As EU representatives have repeatedly explained, the purpose of amending the Serbian Constitution is to achieve an independent judiciary, free of political influence and the rule of law.