A referendum called in northern Kosovo could have decisive influence on EU’s decision on Serbia’s bid to become candidate for membership, writes a newspaper.

Serbs in northern Kosovo, where they form a majority, will on February 14-15 vote on whether they accept the Kosovo Albanian institutions based in Priština.

Belgrade daily Večernje Novosti writes today that if they turn out in force and reject this, “it will mean a new irritation to German and strengthening of its hard-line attitude against Serbia’s candidature”.

President Boris Tadić told the newspaper that the referendum could jeopardize diplomatic efforts to become candidate.

The referendum will happen as the EU Council of Ministers meets in Brussels in mid-February, while the European Commission recommendation in March will depend on this meeting’s recommendation.

International policy professor and former ambassador Predrag Simić told the daily that the referendum could once again postpone the EU decision:

“Since Angela Merkel’s visit until today, everything that is happening in northern Kosovo and Metohija is practically influencing the German position on the Serbian candidature.”

Former ambassador in Germany Ognjen Pribićević also thinks the referendum will have influence, but says the policy of Belgrade is decisive:

“Everyone in the international community knows that official Serbia does not have the same policy as municipal leaders in northern Kosovo and Metohija. The decisive (factor ) will be the diplomacy between Brussels, European capitals, Washington and Belgrade.”

Kosovska Mitrovica Mayor Krstimir Pantić, however, believes that the referendum will have no influence on the EU decision in March:

“Angela Merkel said it openly what Serbia needs to do to become candidate: to abolish ‘parallel institutions’ and establish good neighborly relations. These stories that Serbs from Kosovo will now slow down Serbia’s EU road are entirely baseless. In this way, officials from Belgrade are attempting to justify their bad policy.”

Interior Minister and Deputy PM Ivica Dačić is advising Serbs in the north to coordinate their every important move with Belgrade:

“This is necessary so that the whole undertaking is not detrimental for Serbian national and state interests. We must measure our every move by the goal that we wish to achieve. Nobody’s talking about whether or not Serbs are entitled (to a referendum). It’s about what a referendum will achieve. If it’s to say we do not accept Priština’s authority, everyone’s clear on that. Even (Hashim) Thaci.”


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