Serbian President Boris Tadic's call for Kosovo Serbs to participate in the province's 23 October parliamentary elections has won unequivocal support from UN, EU and US officials.
(AFP, Reuters, AP, Scotsman, BBC, UN, EU, Washington File - 06/10/04)
French troops parachute into the village of Stanovce, Kosovo, north of Pristina, on Wednesday (6 October). [Laura Hasani]
UN, EU and US officials on Wednesday (6 October) welcomed a call by Serbian President Boris Tadic for Kosovo Serbs to participate in the province's 23 October parliamentary elections.
"I call on Serbs from Kosovo to take part in these elections," Tadic said on state television RTS late Tuesday, setting also a deadline for the establishment of internationally-recognised home rule in Kosovo's Serb enclaves. If this did not happen within 90 days from the formation of the province's provisional government, Tadic said, he would personally ask the Kosovo Serb lawmakers to withdraw from parliament.
Tadic, who wants to see Serb local authorities control the police, judiciary, health and education systems within the enclaves, stressed that participation in the democratic process was the only way to achieve that goal.
Welcoming the president's call, UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen said Wednesday the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the upcoming vote would "pave the way for their representation in local institutions and enable a constructive dialogue to address their concerns".
"There is no substitute for direct participation in democratic institutions which make decisions affecting the lives of everyone in Kosovo," he said.
EU and US officials joined Jessen-Petersen in hailing Tadic's call for Kosovo Serbs to vote. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana commended the Serbian leader for "a very courageous decision", while US State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said full Serb participation in the election is the best way to ensure their concerns are addressed and their voices heard.
However, Tadic's call was fiercely criticised by the government of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who has been urging the Kosovo Serbs to boycott the election. Members of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party and the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) also attacked Tadic. Claiming he overstepped his powers, the SRS launched a motion in parliament Wednesday seeking his impeachment.
Meanwhile, about 360 French soldiers parachuted into Kosovo on Wednesday as part of NATO's "Operation Determined Commitment 2004" to reinforce KFOR ahead of the poll. A total of 2,000 reinforcement troops will be deployed in Kosovo until 6 November. Germany and Italy are also contributing troops, expected to arrive within the coming week.