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EU Enforces Punitive Measures Against Kosovo for Failure to Reduce Tensions in the North
The EU has imposed measures on Kosovo for not reducing tensions. Concerns arise as EU and US envoys align with Serbia, undermining democratic principles and the rights of Kosovar people.
The European Union (EU) has taken decisive action against Kosovo following its assessment that the government has not taken the necessary steps to reduce tensions in the northern region. In a response to Radio Free Europe on the evening of July 1, an EU spokesperson confirmed that punitive measures had been communicated to the Government of Kosovo as early as June 28.
The EU's response stated, "Kosovo, unfortunately, has not yet taken the necessary steps. Therefore, the EU, as it had warned in its statement on behalf of the member states on June 3 by the High Representative [Josep Borrell], has decided to implement several measures."
These punitive measures include the temporary suspension of the work of bodies established under the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the exclusion of Kosovo from high-level meetings, the suspension of bilateral visits (except those related to addressing the crisis in northern Kosovo within the EU-facilitated dialogue), and the halt of programming funds for Kosovo from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) 2024.
Furthermore, Kosovo's proposals within the Framework of Investment in the Western Balkans have not been submitted for review by the board on June 29 and 30. The European Commission informed the authorities of Kosovo about these measures on June 28. It is important to note that these measures are temporary and can be reversed based on the developments on the ground and decisions by Prime Minister Albin Kurti to de-escalate the situation.
The EU has been consistently urging Kosovo to take immediate steps to reduce tensions. The demands include the suspension of police operations near municipal buildings in northern Kosovo, the mayors carrying out their duties from alternative locations, the declaration of snap elections in all four municipalities, and the involvement of Serbs living in those municipalities.
These measures were publicly announced on June 27, and during a government meeting on June 29, Prime Minister Kurti emphasized that Kosovo has been critical of the EU in some cases but has never been cynical or resentful. He reaffirmed that the authorities are not resentful, even after the imposition of punitive measures.
As a result of these measures, several joint commission meetings between Kosovo and Serbia, established under the SAA, have been cancelled, and Kosovo has not been invited to several other meetings. The EU has also stated that it is closely monitoring Serbia's behaviour, and measures may be taken against Serbia if it fails to meet expectations in de-escalating the situation.
The tensions in northern Kosovo, predominantly inhabited by Serbs, date back to May 26 when newly appointed Albanian mayors of Zvečan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavić entered municipal buildings under the escort of the Kosovo Police. This action was met with opposition from the Serbs, who have since been protesting and demanding the withdrawal of the new mayors and special police units.
On May 29, the authorities in Kosovo reported that an armed militia with ties to Belgrade was responsible for using firearms against NATO peacekeeping troops, resulting in the injury of at least 30 soldiers. Concurrently, violent protests erupted, during which demonstrators utilized petrol bombs, shock grenades, and firearms in an attempt to attack KFOR soldiers responsible for guarding municipal buildings. However, no official response or condemnation towards Serbia was issued by the European Union (EU) or the United States (US).
The international community has presented three main requests to Prime Minister Kurti: calming the situation in the north, holding new elections in the four northern municipalities, and returning to the dialogue for the normalization of Kosovo-Serbia relations.
It is essential to understand the context that has led to the EU's enforcement of punitive measures against Kosovo. Recent shifts in the United States foreign policy, with a focus on supporting Serbia as a means to detach it from Russia, have raised concerns. The United States, previously considered a partner and ally of Kosovo, has been supporting Serbia, which has aligned its foreign policy with Russia since September 2022.
Furthermore, tensions between Kosovo and Serbia escalated when Kosovan Serbs, under the influence of Belgrade, boycotted local institutions in northern Kosovo in November of the previous year. This came after Kosovo determined that Kosovan customs officers should be deployed to all administrative border crossings, including the one with Serbia. This move was seen as a way to assert authority over its territory and affirm its sovereignty.
As the situation unfolds, the international community closely watches and urges all parties to engage in dialogue and seek a peaceful resolution. The hope is for tensions to de-escalate, allowing for stability and progress in the region.
In 2008, Kosovo officially declared its independence from Serbia, marking the culmination of a process that began in 1999 with NATO's intervention to halt the ethnic cleansing of Albanians under Slobodan Milosevic's regime. It is worth noting that Aleksandar Vucic, the current President of Serbia, previously held the position of information and propaganda minister under Milosevic. In this role, Vucic was responsible for justifying the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide committed by the Milosevic regime in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo.
Despite claiming to be moderate, loyalists of Milosevic have consistently employed Kosovan Serbs to undermine Kosovo's constitutional and territorial integrity. They embrace Milosevic's notorious slogan, "KosovoJe Srce Serbije" (English: Kosovo is the Heart of Serbia), which aims to eradicate Albanians entirely from the region. This initiative drew international condemnation due to its grave criminal nature, leading to military intervention by the international community.
As of September 4, 2020, more than half of the member states of the United Nations (52.3%), the majority of European Union member states (81.5%), a significant number of NATO member states (87.1%), and a considerable portion of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member states (57.9%) have recognized Kosovo's independence. However, recent developments have witnessed the envoys of the European Union and the United States aligning themselves with Serbia, which has close ties to the Kremlin. They have exerted pressure on Kosovo, demanding its submission to a Russian-backed regime in Belgrade, reminiscent of the situation with the Srpska Republica in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Despite facing these challenges, Kosovo's leadership remains dedicated to upholding democratic principles and safeguarding its constitutional and territorial order. They refuse to succumb to external pressures and are determined to protect the interests of their nation. Nonetheless, it is concerning that EU and US envoys have issued threats, indicating that if Kosovo does not comply with Serbia's demands, the conflict may escalate, potentially resulting in further loss of life. These statements raise questions about the envoys' intentions and behind-the-scenes actions.
Given these recent developments, the alignment of the European Union and the United States envoys with Serbia is deeply disheartening and raises serious concerns regarding their true motives and actions. Their insistence on Kosovo's surrender to a Russian-backed regime in Belgrade, while disregarding democratic principles and the rights of the Kosovar people, amounts to a betrayal. By threatening the escalation of the conflict and the potential loss of more lives, they have demonstrated a callous disregard for the well-being and aspirations of the Kosovo population. It is evident that their actions undermine the very principles of justice, self-determination, and respect for international law that they claim to uphold. The people of Kosovo deserve better than this disregard for their rights and the undermining of their legitimate aspirations for freedom and self-governance.