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Kosovo postpones planned border standards by one month after rising tensions with Serbia

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The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, announced early Monday morning, following increased tensions with Serbia, his decision to postpone for one month the implementation of the two measures that were to come into force this Monday, August 1, affecting people entering the country from Serbia.

“Prime Minister Kurti, together with President Osmani and Deputy Prime Ministers Bislimi and Gervalla have developed contacts and meetings with American and European international factors. On this occasion, the Government of Kosovo is committed to postpone the implementation of the two decisions until September 1, 2022,” the Presidency of the country said in a statement, as reported by ‘Bota Sot’.

This Monday a Kosovar law came into force by which people coming from Serbia entering Kosovo must hand over their identity documents, which would be replaced by documents issued by Pristina.

In addition, Serbian-issued car license plates for Kosovar towns with a majority Serb population were to be replaced by official Kosovo ones.

However, although the Kosovo government has backed away from immediately instituting the measure, it has announced that the decision to postpone it is conditional on the removal of barricades that Serbs in northern Kosovo have set up at two border crossings linking the region to Serbia, thus cutting off passage.

“When all barricades and obstacles are removed, this decision will be suspended until September 1, 2022,” Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla said in a Facebook post, stressing the importance of ensuring freedom of movement of citizens and goods, according to Radio Free Europe.

In addition, the Kosovar Executive has “strongly” condemned the road blockade that took place during this Sunday in the north of the country, as well as “the shooting of armed persons against illegal structures there.”

“It is about the tendency to destabilize Kosovo and endanger the peace and security of citizens and our country. There have been numerous acts of aggression in the afternoon and evening, incited and prepared by Belgrade,” the government has argued in the brief.

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Minutes before holding a meeting with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Jeffey Hovenier asked the Kosovo government to postpone the implementation of the decisions for 30 days.

“I am here to request a postponement of the implementation of these two decisions for 30 days on behalf of the U.S. Government. We believe such a postponement would be important because there appears to be misinformation and misunderstandings about these decisions. We look forward to working with this government and colleagues in the European Union,” Hovenier said, according to Radio Free Europe.

For his part, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, has welcomed Kosovo’s decision to postpone the measures to September 1, and has espetulated that he expects “all obstacles” to be removed “immediately.

“The outstanding issues must be addressed through a dialogue facilitated by the European Union and focus on the full normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, essential for their integration into the Union,” Borrell detailed on his Twitter account.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, Caroline Ziadeh, has expressed her concern about the developments in northern Kosovo.

“I urge everyone to address the problems in good faith through dialogue facilitated by the European Union, as well as to strengthen stability and security for all,” she added in a statement.

From Serbia, the country’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, has assured after a meeting with the Serbian General Staff that “good news” is expected, and has urged the citizens of Serbia “not to fall into provocation” and not to do anything that could lead to any kind of conflict.

“That is my big request. All I can say is to pray for peace. I can say that there will be no surrender and Serbia will win. If they dare to mistreat Serbs, kill them, persecute them, Serbia will win,” Vucic said in statements reported by ‘Politika’.

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“I want to address our people in Kosovo in particular and thank them for enduring with restraint, for not being afraid. Also to those who have supported Serbia and have been right to express their views. Many thanks to Borrell and to the representatives of the US Embassy,” he added.

KFOR “READY” TO ACT

NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) announced late Sunday that it is “ready to intervene” in the event that the stability of northern Kosovo is endangered, after Serbs in northern Kosovo cut off two border crossings linking the region to Serbia.

“KFOR will take all necessary measures to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo at all times, in accordance with its UN mandate,” it has made known in a statement on its Twitter account, following the rise in tensions in northern Kosovo recorded in recent hours.

The conflict between the two sides started in September 2021, when Kosovo ordered all drivers entering the country from Serbia to use temporary license plates valid for 60 days, a measure that was already in force for drivers entering Serbia from Kosovo since 2008.

Five EU countries, including Spain, do not recognize the 2008 unilateral Kosovar declaration of independence. The EU, however, mediates in the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, on which the generalized normalization of relations and the possibilities of accession of both countries to the community bloc depend.

The EU diplomatic initiative, which reactivated the dialogue process in 2020, seeks that the two sides normalize their relations in binding terms and according to international standards, something it considers a ‘sine qua non’ condition for the European path.


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