The roadblock outside of the village of Rudare, Kosovo, 11 December 2022. Kosovo police and the local media on Sunday reported explosions, shooting and road blocks overnight in the north of the country, where the population is mostly ethnic Serbian after a former member of the Kosovo police force was detained by the Kosovo police over charges of terrorism igniting a reaction from the Serbian population in the north of Kosovo. EPA-EFE/STR

Barricades Still up in North Despite Calls for Removal

Despite international demands for their removal, barricades erected by protesting Kosovo Serbs are still standing in Jarinjë and Bërnjak.

Amid high tensions in the north of Kosovo, barricades erected by Serbs remain up in Jarinje and Bërnjak, despite EU and the US calls for their removal.

Meanwhile, Dejan Pantic, a former ethnic Serbian policeman, has been detained for one month on suspicion of having committed a terrorist crime, the spokeswoman of the Basic Court in Prishtina, Mirlinda Gashi, told BIRN.

Since December 10, Serbs have erected barricades and blocked roads leading to the border points with Serbia at Jarinje and Bërnjak. The barricades were erected after the Police arrested Pantic on suspicion of being involved in an attack against Central Election Commission CEC officials.

Taking into account the tensions in the north, on Monday the US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, met Prime Minister Albin Kurti and President Vjosa Osmani in Prishtina.

 “It was emphasized that the barricades on the road should be removed immediately. The meeting also discussed the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, the dialogue process and the way forward towards the full normalization of relations between the two countries,” the government announced.

Escobar and the US ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, also held a meeting with the leaders of the Belgrade-backed Serbian List party on Monday evening.

A senior adviser of the US State Department, Derek Chollet, was also due to visit Kosovo. But BIRN has learned Chollet will not visit Kosovo “for personal reasons”.

Primary and secondary schools in the north will not work until further notice, due to the security situation, reported Radio Free Europe on Monday.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said recent Serbian threats to send its security forces back to Kosovo were “totally unacceptable”. 

On Twitter, Baerbock said that while Kosovo has reduced tensions by postponing planned extraordinary elections in the north, Serbia’s recent rhetoric, according to her, did the opposite. 

The minister said reported Serb attacks on the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, were also “unacceptable”.

The situation in the north has been tense for weeks – first because of the Kosovo government’s plan to order re-registration of cars with illegal Serbian license plates, then because of planned elections in the north to replace resigned officials, which were opposed by the local Serbs.

The UK and US embassies in Belgrade and Prishtina have issued joint statements. “We express our deep concern about the current situation in the north of Kosovo following the detention of an individual suspected of involvement in an attack on Kosovan authorities,” they wrote on Facebook.

The embassies said that they expect all illegal obstacles to be dismantled and all threats of violence and intimidation to end.

“This arrest [of Pantic] is no justification for illegal roadblocks nor threats and intimidation against the Kosovan authorities and the local population,” the embassies added.

The embassies said they fully support NATO’s Kosovo Force KFOR in its work to ensure security and freedom of movement and the European Union Rule of Law Mission EULEX in supporting Kosovan rule of law authorities. 

“We firmly condemn as unacceptable all attacks on Kosovan and International security agencies,” they emphasized.

Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said on Sunday: “Since yesterday afternoon (Saturday) six barricades were placed in the municipalities of Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok; therefore, for safety reasons, we closed two crossing points (with Serbia) at Jarinje and Bernjak.” 

EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that “barricades must be removed immediately by groups of Kosovo Serbs. 

“The EU will not tolerate attacks on EULEX Kosovo or the use of violent, criminal acts in the north,” he wrote on Twitter. 

A EULEX car patrol was attacked with a stun grenade on Saturday  in the north of Kosovo. EULEX condemned the attack while confirming that there were no injuries.

A Kosovo police car was also attacked on Thursday evening and a policeman was injured. A team of Kallxo journalists was also attacked in the north on Friday morning. 

The attacks occurred while the CEC was preparing local elections in the northern municipalities of Leposaviq, Zveçan, North Mitrovica and Zubin Potok.  The elections were announced after the mayors of the municipalities and other Serbian representatives quit en masse at the beginning of November, opposing a decision of the government to no longer allow the circulation of cars with license plates issued by Serbia.

Amid the tense situation, Kosovo President, Vjosa Osmani, after consultation with the political parties, has decided to postpone the extraordinary elections for mayors and municipal assemblies of the four northern municipalities to April 23, 2023. The decision has been greeted by QUINT countries.

13/12/2022 - 16:04

13 December 2022 - 16:04

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.