EU poised to step up Kosovo involvement
The European Union says it is ready to reinforce its mission in northern Kosovo as tensions rise with the ethnically Serbian minority.
Serb protesters have used large vehicles to block major roads in northern Kosovo leading to two Serbian border crossings, Jarinje and Brnjak, which are both closed.
The protests began with the arrest of Dejan Pantic, a former police officer, on Saturday who joined a mass resignation of around 600 ethnic-Serb police last month after Kosovo said it would require Serbs to scrap old Serbian vehicle licence plates.
Approximately 50,000 residents of majority-Serb areas have refused to use Kosovo’s registration plates because they do not recognise it as independent from Serbia.
Pantic is accused by Kosovo’s authorities of organising “a terrorist attack on the offices of the Central Election Commission” and on Kosovo’s police before elections in four Serb-dominated municipalities in northern Kosovo. He was remanded in custody for 30 days.
An EU-brokered agreement in late November saw Kosovo drop plans to fine drivers who did not swap the plates and Serbia agreeing to stop issuing registrations with the initials of towns inside Kosovo.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić met national security council after a stun grenade was thrown at EU police in north Kosovo on Saturday, where Serbs are in a majority.
Serbia refuses to recognise its former province of Kosovo as an independent state.
Vučić told the media that he wanted to defuse the situation.
Kosovo’s police said officers came under fire close to a lake bordering Serbia on Saturday and they returned fire in self-defence.
Vučić said the deployment of police to Serb areas violated previous peace deals. The presence of Nato’s 4,000 KFOR peacekeepers in Kosovo has prevented any serious issues since the 1999 war. Belgrade also relies on KFOR to protect the Serb community.
Nato’s presence also guarantees that Serbia will not cross the international border and send any forces into Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognise it but does accept Prístina’s governing authority under a 2013 deal to normalise relations.
Of the 1.8 million Kosovo residents, 92 per cent are Albanian and just 6 per cent are Serbian.
Kosovo. Picture credit: Wikimedia