European Western Balkans

RFE: The EU is preparing measures against Kosovo

Albin Kurti; Photo: European Union 2021

BRUSSELS – The European Union has prepared initial measures against Kosovo due to the disregard of requests for immediate steps by the Government of Kosovo to reduce tensions in the north, Radio Free Europa learns from diplomatic sources.

According to RFE, measures will include the suspension of invitations for Kosovo’s participation in high-level events and bilateral visits by the EU and member states. There will be meetings only when they need to be held to focus on addressing the crisis in north of Kosovo and steps to find solution.

The meeting of a sub-committee, the one for trade, industry, customs and taxes, which was supposed to be held on June 8, but has not been held, has already been suspended. The next meeting, which is expected to be suspended, is the one on June 21 and 22, of the sub-commission for justice, freedom and security.

According to RFE, there will also be financial consequences for Kosovo. A significant suspension of financing by the EU of several projects for which Kosovo has given proposals within the Investment Fund for the Western Balkans is planned.

The EU, as a measure against Kosovo, has planned to reduce the level of public presence in joint developments and events where members of the Government of Kosovo participate. This measure is expected to include meetings within the framework of financial cooperation. The United States has also canceled Kosovo’s participation in the Defender Europe 23 military exercises, calling this the first punitive measure against Kosovo for not meeting the demands of the international community.

Spokesperson of the EU, Peter Stano, confirmed that the EU is continuing to consider possible measures against Kosovo, if the appropriate steps are not taken in the meantime.

“Until now, we have not seen any immediate and decisive steps by Prime Minister Kurti. The recent developments in the north of Kosovo only prove that the escalation is continuing and this goes against the interests of Kosovo and all the people in Kosovo”, said Stano, RFE reported. 

On 13 June, Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, announced that he has sent Borrell a five-point plan that, according to him, would help reduce tensions in the north. He has also discussed this plan with the representatives of the QUINT countries.

Stano said that some of the measures that will be taken against Kosovo have been shared with the member states of the bloc, according to him, if Kurti does not take adequate steps and immediately reduce tensions in the north.

“Discussions between the member countries are continuing and the high representative, Josep Borrell, is in permanent contact with the leaders of the region and those of the European Union member countries”, said Stano.

The tensions in the north have increased since 26 May, when the Kosovo Police helped the Albanian mayors of the Zvečan, Zubin Potok and Leposavić municipalities to settle in the municipal facilities, despite the resistance of the local residents. Tensions culminated on 29 May, when local Serbs clashed with soldiers from the NATO mission in Kosovo, KFOR. Dozens of people from both sides were injured in the clashes. These mayors were elected on 23 April, votes that were boycotted by the local Serbian parties and population.

The EU and the United States have presented Kurti with three demands: calming the situation in the north, holding new elections in the four municipalities in the north and returning to the dialogue for the normalization of Kosovo-Serbia relations.

Tensions arise again on 13 June, when a Kosovo Serb man was arrested in the north, over clashes that broke out at the end of May between NATO peacekeepers and Serb protesters.

Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla confirmed the arrest on Facebook, describing Milenkovic as a leader of the Civil Protection organisation, a group that should have been integrated into Kosovo’s public institutions under a 2015 European Union-mediated agreement between Serbia and its former southern province.

“During his arrest, three Kosovo police officer sustained minor injuries,” Svecla wrote, accusing Milenković of heading “gangs that have terrorised citizens” for years.

The arrest came as Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti confirmed he had presented to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell a five-point plan for de-escalation in northern Kosovo, which includes new municipal elections.

The Serbian government’s pointman for Kosovo, Petar Petković, said the arrest showed Kurti is “only interested in conflicts and war in the north”. He assessed that Milenković was “no criminal” and that his arrest took the form of a “siege” with tear gas tossed indiscriminately at residents.

According to local news portal KoSSev, those gathered chanted ‘Betrayal’ and slogans against Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

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