Lifting of roadblocks on the border between Kosovo and Serbia after several days of tension

Lifting of roadblocks on the border between Kosovo and Serbia after several days of tension

Two border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia were reopened on Monday (August 1) after NATO peacekeepers oversaw the lifting of roadblocks that Serb protesters had set up over the weekend in a region where peace has remained fragile since the end of the 1998-1999 war.

Tensions escalated on Saturday and Sunday after Pristina issued reciprocal measures that meant all Serbian vehicles entering Kosovo were required to have temporary Kosovo plates, and people entering the territory with a Serbian passport must complete additional documents.

These decisions led to protests and the setting up of roadblocks by the Serbs. Indeed, late on Sunday, demonstrators had parked trucks full of gravel and other heavy machinery to form a blockade on the roads leading to the two border crossings, Jarinje and Bernjak, in territory with a Serb majority. Kosovo police said they had to close the border crossings then. Gunshots were also heard on the Kosovo side of the border.

Kosovo police said the lifting of roadblocks in the north of the country has allowed the reopening of the two border crossings with Serbia.

“The roads are now open to traffic. The two border posts are now open for the passage of people and goods.police said in a statement.

The lifting of the blockades came after the Kosovo government postponed the application of the decision which would oblige ethnic Serbs, the majority in the north of the country, to apply for documents and car license plates issued by the institutions. of Kosovo.

The government’s decision to postpone the application of this decision follows consultations with the ambassadors of the United States and the European Union.

“Violence will not be tolerated. Those who resort to violence will be punished [conformément aux règles] of the rule of law and by means of the law”, Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti told reporters on Monday. He also clarified that the postponement decision would not come into effect until the blockades were lifted. His statements caused several hours of tension yesterday, because the roadblocks remained in place and Pristina therefore did not announce the postponement of the measures.

On Monday, a Euronews journalist, Kosovë Gjoci, was hit with a bottle while reporting in the town of Mitrovica, a Serb-majority town.

After the lifting of the roadblocks, the situation remained somewhat tense throughout Monday evening, but as of Tuesday, no problems were reported and calm seems to have returned to the region.

However, the lack of a definitive solution means that on September 1, a similar situation is likely to occur again.

60 days to comply

Fourteen years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, some 50,000 Serbs living in northern Kosovo refuse to recognize Pristina institutions and use license plates and documents issued by the authorities Serbs.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government has said it will give Serbs a 60-day period to get Kosovo license plates, a year after it backed down from trying to impose them over similar protests.

This measure was originally supposed to come into effect from Monday, but Kosovar leaders finally declared that they would postpone it until September 1 after having “contacted and held meetings with American and European international actors”.

The government has also decided that from August 1, all citizens of Serbia traveling to Kosovo will have to obtain an additional document at the border in order to enter the territory.

Belgrade authorities apply a similar rule to Kosovo Albanians traveling to Serbian territory.

September 2021

In September 2021, Mr Kurti’s government had required cars with Serbian license plates to acquire Kosovo-issued plates when crossing the border.

Serbia then reacted by sending troops to its border with Kosovo and by galvanizing the Serb population of Kosovo, which led to protests.

Although the two parties have signed a temporary agreement – ​​vehicles traveling between the two countries must have stickers on their license plates to hide the names and flags of the countries – they have not however succeeded in finding a definitive solution to the problem.

In June, Mr Kurti announced that from August 1 there would be a 60-day transition period after which license plates would have to be replaced, if no other solution had been found.

Albanian support

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama supported Kosovo’s decision to implement reciprocity measures vis-à-vis Serbia during a press conference on Monday.

“Yesterday’s events reflect the difficult relations [entre la Serbie et le Kosovo]but implementing the agreement reached in Brussels is Kosovo’s right and duty, and I support the Kosovo government 100%, as I commend Prime Minister Kurti for his restraint and for listening to the allies who suggested a postponement”Mr. Rama said.

“The government of Kosovo has the right and the duty to implement the agreements and to exercise its territorial sovereignty and independence”he continued, while calling on the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vučić, not to maintain the dissensions observed among ethnic Serbs in the region.

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