KFOR Must Remove the Barricades, Analysts Say

While barricades in the north remain intact, analysts in Kosovo call for KFOR to remove them.

Eight days have passed since the main streets of the northern part of Kosovo have been blocked by barricades. 

Requests for their removal have come from the Kosovo government, civil society and US representatives. However there seems to be a disagreement in who is responsible for removing these barricades. 

“The Kosovo Police has the capacity to remove the barricades. But in a fragile security situation, everything can escalate. Therefore, it remains for the peacekeeping forces of NATO to clear the roads in the north”, said Imer Mushkolaj, a political analyst, for Prishtina Insight. 

He added that the dialogue must not continue without removing the barricades. If this happens, then Kosovo’s institutions surrender to criminals and paramilitaries, who are attacking in the north.

“KFOR has intervened in the past to destroy the barricades. But at that time, it was seen as part of a longer political cooperation between Kosovo and the western partners as part of a joint process for the integration of the north”, said Agon Maliqi, a political analyst for Prishtina Insight. 

“I believe that now such discussions at the political level are being opened up so that the Serbs remove the barricades voluntarily”, he added.

“Barricades are obstacles to normal life for citizens and fuel unnecessary tensions. In order not to allow organized crime and criminal gangs to operate freely, KFOR and EULEX must act and to prevent the use of intervention by Kosovo institutions for political consumption, otherwise in another situation the institutions are obliged to act”, said Vetëvendosje deputy, Haki Abazi.

KFOR has been silent, despite several requests from BIRN on the question of when they are planning to remove the barricades. 

‘KFOR remains extremely vigilant and fully capable of implementing its UN mandate to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities living in Kosovo’, NATO KFOR spokesperson replied to BIRN on Friday.

“This includes enhanced patrols in northern Kosovo, in close coordination with the Kosovo Police and EULEX. The KFOR Commander remains in close contact with all of his counterparts, including representatives of the Institutions in Kosovo and Kosovo Security Organizations and with the Chief of the Serbian Armed Forces” the spokesperson continued, without giving further details on when and if they were planning on removing the barricades.

Kosovo Ombudsperson emphasized that the placement of barricades in the north hinders the free movement of citizens, and that it is the duty of the authorities to find ways to ensure the respect of this right as soon as possible.

Kosovo PM, Albin Kurti, said that they are waiting for KFOR to remove these barricades. 

“It would be best if they [barricades] were removed by those who placed them, but those who placed those barricades also placed themselves in the barricades, even with weapons. These are not civilian barricades and, on the other hand, we have given the time requested by KFOR for them to remove these barricades, and our Minister of Internal Affairs is waiting”, said Kosovo PM, Albin Kurti, in an interview for local television in Kosovo, ATV.

KFOR asked for “a little time” from the Kosovo government in order to remove the barricades, but eight days on, situation remains the same.

The US envoy for Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar said that he expects the barricades erected in the north of Kosovo to be removed by the people who created them, in an interview for RFE on Tuesday.

While the EU envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajçak, said that he prefers the diplomatic way to remove the barricades in the north and not through bulldozers.

In the meantime, local serbs have found ways to avoid these barricades, in order to move freely around the north. The villages around the four Serbian-majority municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic, have become trodden paths, as the main roads remain blocked by large trucks. 

The six barricades erected on December 10 blocked the roads leading to the border points with Serbia, Jarinje and Bërnjak.

The barricades action of the local Serbs came after the Kosovo Police arrested the former Serbian official of this institution, Dejan Pantic, on suspicion of having organized a “terrorist attack” on the offices of the Central Election Commission in the north of Kosovo. 

For him, a month’s detention was set, but because of the barricades, he has still not been transferred to the detention center in Prishtina. It is suspected that he still remains in one of the border police shacks in the north .

Shkodrane Dakaj contributed to this article. 

17/12/2022 - 18:09

17 December 2022 - 18:09

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.