European flags in front of European Commission headquarters Berlaymont building in Brussels, Belgium, 11 April 2023. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

Kosovo Calls EU for ‘Immediate Removal’ of Sanctions

Kosovo authorities are growing impatient to see the European Union remove measures set in June last year as Deputy PM Besnik Bislimi lists Kosovo’s “efforts” to de-escalation of situation in the north.

Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister, Besnik Bislimi, announced on Sunday evening that he listed the efforts that Kosovo made in order to fulfill the EU’s requirements to remove the measures that they had decided on Kosovo, in a letter to the European Union special envoy for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak.

“An immediate removal would help us mobilize efforts for accelerated reform progress, create the environment for strengthened regional cooperation & faster integration of” the six Western Balkan countries, Bislimi wrote in the social media platform X (previously known as Twitter).

“We have now reached an irrational situation where Kosovo is defending the rule of law while under measures while Serbia continues to fuel radicalism without repercussions. It is self-evident that this unfair singling out of Kosovo also harms the process of normalization with Serbia facing disincentives to formalize and implement the (February 2023 normalisation) agreement as negotiated,” the letter reads.

In the letter, Bislimi argued that the EU measures, imposed in mid-June 2023, incentivized Serbia towards radicalization as it arrested three policemen from inside Kosovo’s territory shortly after, an act which Kosovo authorities described as abduction.

“A few months later, Serbia sponsored the act of aggression and terrorist attack in Banjska with the clear aim for wider destabilization”, Bislimi added.

BIRN contacted the EU for a comment regarding this letter but has not received any response by the time of publication.

The EU measures against Kosovo were imposed after a security operation to install ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-majority municipalities triggered a violent backlash from Serbs in which dozens of NATO-led peacekeepers were injured.

The EU demanded Kosovo immediately suspend police operations near municipal buildings in the northern municipalities, for the mayors – elected after a Serb boycott – to perform their duties elsewhere, and for new local elections to be held with the full participation of Serbs.

Bislimi claimed that Kosovo implemented all elements agreed in the Bratislava Arrangements, on July 10, 2023, including a decrease by 25 percent of all police presence in and around municipal buildings in the four Serb majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo.

He stressed that measures adversely affected Kosovo’s EU progress and reforms. On this note, Bislimi highlighted that the impasse in the execution of IPA projects harms the efforts for accelerated growth, EU convergence and essential strategic reforms

“An immediate removal of these negative measures would not only help us mobilize efforts for accelerated reform progress, but at the same time create the conducive environment for strengthened regional cooperation and faster integration of WB6”, Bislimi stated.

In January, 2024, BIRN reported that since the measures were imposed last year, in practice, the EU and some member states have on occasion turned a blind eye to Kosovo’s participation in EU events with the region, while Kosovo leaders admit that the measures have affected some infrastructure projects, without put a figure on the losses.

Bislimi also expressed that the integration of non majority communities, including of the Kosovo Serb community, in the Kosovo society is a priority for the government which has taken measures to stimulate their participation in the institutional, economic and social life.

Some of the “efforts” taken by Kosovo, as listed in the letter, include the creation of a mechanism for the verification of diplomas issued by high schools in the Serbian parallel system in Kosovo; the transformation of the Mitrovica International Business College into a Public College of Higher Education; and the restoration of damages caused to the Banjska Monastery during the September 24, 2023, attack by Serbian gunmen.

In its 2023 annual report on Kosovo’s progress towards EU accession, published in November, the European Commission said that despite some steps “in the right direction”, Kosovo needed to do more.

06/02/2024 - 14:33

06 February 2024 - 14:33

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.