Since the talks between Kosovo and Serbia ended with an agreement between the two countries on 19th May, a great deal of EU attention has focused on the implementation of that agreement. The two Prime Ministers were invited to Brussels by the EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton on 21st May hoping that the two could come to terms on a plan after their delegates failed to do so earlier in the month. The talks ended yesterday with the two parties agreeing, in principle, to a joint text that foresees implementation steps for the next six months. With that done, the debate over local elections is expected to heat up much more domestically.
Considering that previous experience with both local and general elections has not been admirable, the carrying out of these elections will be even more problematic as they are also meant to take place in the Serb-populated municipalities of northern Kosovo. While getting the agreement implemented seems a more immediate concern for the EU, it will not go unnoticed that Kosovo, it appears, will conduct the local elections without prior reforms to the legal framework for which the EU has called for since the 2009 municipal and the 2010 general elections were marked by ‘serious shortcomings and technical difficulties’. As Kosovo conducts its local elections it must not forget that these will be another crucial test: Kosovo will need to show that it can comply with the most fundamental political criteria for EU membership, namely free and fair elections. Without much progress on this essential criterion it seems unlikely that anything else will get Kosovo closer to joining the EU.
Local elections, by law, need to take place this year, but the actual date has not been yet announced by the President of Kosovo. This has left much room for speculation, with media debate about whether they will take place this year, or whether they will be postponed until next year (when the general elections are also scheduled to take place). Balkan Insight, part of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), reported that the elections might be delayed until next year when according to their source ‘chances to have a successful electoral process in the northern part of the country have increased’. Locally, much of the media discourse has centred around the actual month when elections could take place this year instead, which is a reflection of where the political parties as well as civil society organisations stand on this matter. Telegrafi reported that PDK, the major coalition partner in the government, has suggested mid-October as an ‘optimal date’ for elections on the grounds that ‘parties will have more time to prepare for the elections’ without questioning first how much of a difference a few days will make and, second, the fact that most of the other parties do not seem to share that view.
Read the full blog post here.