EU calls on Kosovo to suspend police operations in Serb municipalities

Snap elections in Kosovo with participation of local Serbs are key to reducing tensions in region, says EU’s foreign policy chief.

Yayınlanma: 23.06.2023 - 11:45
EU calls on Kosovo to suspend police operations in Serb municipalities
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The European Union urged Kosovo on Thursday to suspend police operations in the northern Serb municipalities and announce snap local elections.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti met in Brussels on Thursday to find a solution to the current tensions between their countries as part of EU-facilitated talks.

The Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue meeting was called by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Together with Miroslav Lajcak, the EU Special Envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Borrell met the parties in separate meetings.

Speaking to reporters, Borrell said they presented the bloc’s expectations to the parties.

''To Kosovo, to immediately suspend police operations in the vicinity of the municipal buildings in the north of Kosovo, and for the four (Albanian) mayors to temporarily perform their duties in premises out of the municipal buildings.

“For Serbia, to ensure that protestors will withdraw from the municipal building simultaneously with the withdrawal of the Kosovo police,” he said.

“To both, to announce early (local) elections, as soon as possible, in all four municipalities with the unconditional participation of the Kosovo Serbs.”

According Borrell, the main problem is the election results in the northern municipalities.

''Here is the core of the problem, and the core of the solution: early elections. New elections, as soon as possible, with full participation,'' he said.

Tensions have risen in Kosovo following the election of ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-dominated northern districts last month.

Kosovo Serbs boycotted extraordinary local government elections for four municipalities in the country's north. Only 3.47% of eligible voters cast ballots, according to the Kosovo Central Election Commission (KQZ).

After the elections, the EU said that the low turnout did not provide municipalities with long-term political solutions.

Ethnic Serbs have been protesting the election of the mayors since late May.

President Vucic told reporters after the meeting that Serbia faces double standards, as everything that applies to Ukraine does not apply to Serbia.

"Everything that applies to Ukraine does not apply to Serbia, but that is the right of the stronger, which we have to get used to," he said.

He added that Kosovo is the ''child of a large number of EU countries which recognize its independence.”

"We have to understand that. (Kosovo) is their child. They created him and took care of him from the cradle. So he grew a little. The teenager is now mischievous. He has reached crazy years, as they think, and not something more dangerous, but they are still guarding (him)," said Vucic.

Kurti said he is for snap elections

"We are open to early elections, but there must be a legal solution to this. It cannot be illegal. For example, let's do it with the signatures of citizens, as stipulated by the law, so that the mayors' duties end. This is a legal solution. We cannot produce illegal solutions,'' he said.

On May 30, NATO decided to deploy 700 more troops to KFOR, the alliance-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, after 30 of its soldiers were injured amid unrest.

Tensions have resurfaced following the detention by Kosovo of one of the organizers of the attack on May 29 on NATO's peacekeeping force, which was deployed amid Serb unrest over the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors in their area.

Serbs gathered in North Mitrovica and tried to prevent the Kosovo police from operating, and three officers were slightly injured in the ensuing clash.

According to Vucic, a "hybrid war" is being waged against Serbia.

He said the ongoing dialogue process for the normalization of relations with Kosovo cannot continue with Kurti.

Serbia detained three Kosovo police officers last week, saying they were "planning an action in Serbia."

Kosovo claimed that its officers were kidnapped.

The EU requires Kosovo and Serbia to reach a final agreement and resolve disputes between them to progress in their integration with the bloc.

Most UN member states including the US, UK, France, Germany and Türkiye recognized Kosovo as a country separate from its neighbor when Pristina declared independence 15 years ago, but Belgrade continues to regard it as its territory.???????

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