EU Welcomes Facilitation Of Voting In Kosovo In Serbian Elections

The European Union has welcomed an agreement reached on OSCE facilitation of voting in Kosovo in the Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton pledged full support to the OSCE for carrying out its facilitating role.

She called on both Kosovo and Serbia to continue to cooperate with the OSCE in good faith so that the vote is held in a peaceful and orderly way. She also urged all sides to refrain from any action which may spark tensions.

"EULEX will monitor the security environment and will execute its mandate in close cooperation
with the other international and local organizations involved," the High Representative said.

On Monday, Pristina and Belgrade reached an agreement to let Kosovo Serbs vote in Serbia's presidential and parliamentary polls, which are scheduled to take place on May 6. The OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OmiK) will facilitate the voting.

The plan is for the OSCE to provide the logistics, as Kosovo is opposed to the Serbian state playing any role in voting inside Kosovo. Serbian nationals living in other countries can vote in the presidential and general elections, in their country of residence.

It is estimated that there are around 100,000 ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, making up about 5 per cent of the country's population.

The OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier said it has begun its preparations to organize polling stations to enable eligible voters in Kosovo to exercise their right to vote in these elections. He called on all to refrain from provocation and to allow the voting to proceed in an orderly and peaceful manner.

The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore, has warned that "the OSCE reserves the right to withdraw from its facilitating role" if the elections do not take place "according to the agreement reached and with full respect to the OSCE's role."

Serbian President Boris Tadic's surprise resignation last month paved the way for joint parliamentary and presidential elections. Serbian presidential polls will simultaneously be held along with parliamentary, regional and local elections, which had already been scheduled for May 6.

Pro-European Tadic is seeking re-election. He is facing stiff challenge from nationalist Opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic, who has the tacit support of Russia.

Serbia was recognized as an official candidate to the European Union in March after it signed two cooperation agreements with Kosovo, and extradited to the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal two fugitives for atrocities committed during the Balkan Wars.

At a press conference announcing his resignation on April 4, Tadic vowed that the Serbian government would "never recognize Kosovo," which seceded in 2008.

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