The population census in Kosovo will begin as planned on April 1, without the mainly Serb northern part of the country.
Kosovo's government and Eurostat, Europe's statistical agency, announced on Monday in Pristina that the census would be held as planned.
Minister of Public Administration Mahir Jagcilar said the population survey would be held according to international standards and that the government would discuss offering more time to the north to be included.
“We will start on April 1 and we will set a deadline for that part [the north] too. There is a chance that this will not take more then two weeks,” Jagcilar said in a press conference.
The EUROSTAT representative, Pieter Everaers, who met Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and census officials while in Pristina, confirmed that the survey will not be held in the north, noting that the implementation of the census in that area depends on politicians.
“We have to rely on politicians who will talk with each other and find solutions,” Everaers told journalists, adding: “For me, it is impossible to say anything about precise deadlines”.
The census in Kosovo, particularly in the northern part that is inhabitated mainly by Serbs and remains largely under the control of Belgrade, has been a hot issue between Serbian and Kosovo authorities. Serbia has demanded that the head count be carried out by the United Nations.
On Monday, Serbian officials called on Serbs in Kosovo not to take part in the census unless it is carried out by the UN. They say they are worried that the survey will underrepresent the number of Serbs on the territory.
Meanwhile, Kosovo's Minister of Urban Planning Mahir Jagcilar denied any connection between the census and the ongoing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
Everaers noted that the census monitoring group will issue a report on the census, and if it finds that the head count provides reliable data, the results will be accepted even if the north is not included.
The census will be monitored by the International Monitoring Operation, IMO, which consists of the European Commission, Council of Europe, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and United Nations Statistics Division.
“The objective of the IMO is to ensure that the census will comply with the international census recommendations issued by the United Nations,” the IMO’s press release reads.
Addressing criticism over census questions on ethnicity and religion, the IMO said that the census in Kosovo falls under international standards.
“The IMO has reviewed the questions and found them compliant with international standards, as respondents are free to declare their ethnicity and religion but are not obliged to do so,” the IMO press release reads.