Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called on Serbs protesting in northern Kosovo to dismantle the barricades. Vucic said he had received guarantees from the EU and the U.S. that the protesters would not be persecuted.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has called on Serbs protesting in northern Kosovo to dismantle the barricades. That was reported by Reuters on Wednesday, December 28, quoting the head of Serbia’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petkovic. Petkovic said Vucic had received guarantees from the EU and the U.S. that the protesters would not be harassed by the Kosovo authorities.
Earlier in the day, it was announced that Serbian-born Kosovo ex-policeman Dejan Pantic, arrested on December 10 at the Jarinje border crossing on suspicion of terrorism, would be transferred to house arrest. It was Pantic’s arrest almost three weeks ago that caused another round of tensions. The Serbs, who make up the majority of the population in northern Kosovo, began erecting barricades, blocking access to checkpoints on the border with Serbia. On December 28, the Kosovo authorities blocked the largest checkpoint at Merdare. The day before, Serbia put the army on alert.
The U.S. and the EU urged to ease the tension between the parties. The German Foreign Ministry said it believes Berlin should focus at this stage on efforts to dismantle the barricades. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed that Moscow has no destructive influence on the situation.
The conflict between Serbia and Kosovo escalates
The conflict between Serbia and Kosovo escalated in July of this year when Pristina decided to introduce temporary documents for incoming Serbian citizens and demanded that the Serbian minority change their old Serbian license plates for local ones. Kosovo Serbs erected barricades in protest, after which the authorities in Pristina postponed introducing the new rules.
In late November, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell reported that Kosovo and Serbia had resolved the dispute about license plates, but conflicts continued in the region. For example, on December 25 clashes occurred in the Zubin Potok municipality, where local ethnic Serbs had been blocking roads for two weeks. According to the KFOR mission, unknown perpetrators fired near one of their patrols, but no one was injured.
Kosovo applied for EU membership
In 2008, the Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. It was recognized by many European states, including Germany and the USA. Belgrade considers Kosovo its autonomous province and does not recognize the independence of Pristina. Serbia’s position is shared by Russia, most post-Soviet states, as well as five EU countries, China and India.