A grenade against the police forces of the European EULEX mission and hundreds of Kosovo agents who are moving heavily armed towards the borders with Serbia. Relations between Pristina, the capital of a self-proclaimed independent republic from Serbia in 2008 and recognized only by 98 states (including Italy), and Belgrade, deteriorated to levels that increasingly resemble the scenarios of the drama that followed the breakup of Tito’s Yugoslavia.
Less than two million inhabitants, squeezed between Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia, Kosovo is back the scenario of the fuse that can rekindle the powder keg of the Balkans where the wounds from the wars of the nineties are still open and where a international armed presence, the KFor with soldiers from NATO and therefore also from Italy, flanked by the Eulex mission of the European Union which also includes the Carabinieri: personnel of this European contingent were yesterday the target of a “stun” grenade – of which a pro-Serbian matrix is suspected – which fortunately did not cause injuries, but which caused tension to climb another step.
the Italian component of this contingent currently sees 23 carabinieri deployed from the 7th “Trentino Alto-Adige” regiment1 who arrived at the end of November from the Laives barracks (Bolzano)
The attack on the mission’s reconnaissance patrol took place last night near Rudare, in the north of the country. “This attack, as well as the attacks on Kosovo police officers, are unacceptable – it is written in a note by Eluex – We strongly condemn the violent acts perpetrated by armed people in northern Kosovo, including against the international community. Eulex will continue to work with determination to support the stability of Kosovo, within the boundaries of its mandate, and contribute to the security of its population by all communities.We call on those responsible to refrain from more provocative actions and urge Kosovo’s institutions to hand over the perpetrators to justice”.
And today we have the ultimatum from the prime minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, who has given until tonight to the Serbian population to remove the barricades erected to protest against the arrest of a former police officer. According to Vecherne Novosti sources, Kurti informed the countries of the Kosovo Quintet (USA, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy) that “the security structures of Kosovo, led by the special police units Njso, now in a state of maximum alert , they will take all measures to remove the barricades in the north”.
As an immediate reaction to this statement, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the response in case of intervention against the Serb population of Kosovo. The president of the Kosovo Serb party Lista Serbia, Goran Rakic, denounced that this evening Kurti will send units of the police and the special security service of Kosovo to “persecute the Serbian people” and “unleash a storm” on the population.
“This is the time when it is up to KFOR (NATO force) and (EU mission) Eulex to prevent the chaos Kurti is preparing,” warned Rakic, whose party ruled the four Serb-majority municipalities of northern Kosovo before to announce, in November, a total boycott with the resignation of all its mayors and withdrawal from local elections initially scheduled for next week, now postponed to April.
After the number plate war of the last few months, the tension has now been triggered by thearrest of former Kosovar-Serb policeman Dejan Pantic, on charges of involvement in terrorism crimes and an attack on the constitutional order, in particular for the assault on the offices of the electoral commission and attacks on Kosovar police officials.
Pantic, like 600 other Kosovo Serb officials, resigned from his post as part of the boycott campaign launched by Lista Serbia, after tensions over license plates and the appointment of a Kosovar Minister for Communities not coming from the ranks of the party supported by Belgrade.
After last night’s attack on a Eulex patrol with a stun grenade, which caused no casualties, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has called for restraint and the removal of the barricades. But Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic replied that they were erected “not only because their fundamental human rights (of the Kosovar Serbs) are threatened, but also to protect the Brussels agreement and whose implementation should be guaranteed by the EU”.
The barricades, he wrote, are “a call for peace and also a call for action by the international community to start doing its job.”
Western chancelleries, primarily the EU and the US, are multiplying their appeals for calm, and in the last few hours it was the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani who contacted the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti by telephone, launching appeals to dialogue and moderation. The agreement of the last few weeks on the issue of car registration plates seemed to have restored calm to the turbulent relations between the Pristina leadership, of Albanian ethnicity, and the Serb population which constitutes the majority in northern Kosovo, and which enjoys the unconditional support of the Belgrade government.
However, the atmosphere was heated up again by the decision of the Kosovar government to send hundreds of heavily armed special police agents backed up by armored vehicles to the north. A step motivated by the need to guarantee public order and the safety of residents after the incidents of recent days, but which has caused a real uprising in the local Serb population. An anger supported and shared by Belgrade, which openly accuses Prime Minister Kurti of fanning the flames, of implementing a provocative policy and of aiming for a real ethnic cleansing with the expulsion of the Serbs from Kosovo.
Serbian premier Ana Brnabic’s words yesterday were shocking, according to whom with his unilateral and destabilizing actions and with his evident anti-Serb hatred Kurti has brought the situation “to the limit of a new armed conflict” in the Balkans. And today, in protest against the arrest of a former Serb agent of the Kosovar police, who resigned in recent weeks together with the other Serb representatives of all the institutions of Kosovo, in various parts of the north the Serb population staged demonstrations by erecting barricades and implementing blockades road. In this situation of growing tension, the president of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani announced the postponement to April 23 of the early local elections scheduled for December 18 for the replacement of mayors in the main northern municipalities with a Serb majority.
In the evening, for his part, President Vucic, in a speech on live TV, accused the Kosovar premier Kurti of pursuing an “irresponsible and dangerous” policy, trampling on international law and all the agreements concluded during the dialogue. And he announced that Belgrade will ask the KFOR command to be able to send a contingent of its security forces to Kosovo. According to him, this is foreseen by resolution 1244 of the UN security council. An urgent appeal for moderation and dialogue, as we said, came today from Tajani, who expressed concern to Vucic and Kurti about the progressive deterioration of the situation. The head of the Farnesina, who had been on a mission to Belgrade and Pristina in recent weeks, reiterated Italy’s willingness to “play a leading role in the Western Balkans to guarantee security and socio-economic growth”. “The stability of the region is an Italian and a European objective,” Tajani said.
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Kosovo and Serbia at loggerheads, troops at the borders and grenade against EU patrol: what is happening. The carabinieri were also deployed
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