Nato and EU police (Eulex) on Thursday (13 October) stepped up their patrols in northern Kosovo and said they will dismantle barricades set up by Serbs, advising them to stay away from “illegal” protests.
The joint forces dismantled a parallel road created by the local Serbs around the Jarinje crossing point in northern Kosovo “to help prevent illegal use of a side road around the official gate and stop smuggling,” a Nato press release reads.
Nato forces also have the right “to remove barricades when the circumstances are appropriate and will not tolerate them indefinitely. Citizens should stay away from the road blockades and barricades, and should not take part in illegal protest activities,” the statement added.
Last month, Nato had to step in when violence erupted at the Jarinje crossing point, with Serbs setting the border post on fire and bulldozing it. Ethnic tensions have flared in the majority-Serb part of Kosovo after Pristina decided to regain control of its border crossings in July and enforce a trade ban on Serbian goods. A Kosovo policeman was shot dead in the ensuing clashes.
Serbia, along with five EU member states, have not recognised Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008. EU police and Nato peacekeeping forces are trying to defuse tensions and clamp down on organised crime and trafficking.
Belgrade is under pressure from the EU to resume talks with Kosovo in returning for being allowed to start membership talks with the bloc.
Despite accusations from Pristina, the Serbian government maintains that it has nothing to do with the manning of barricades in northern Kosovo. Speaking to B92 radio last week, Serbian minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanovic said that protesters were “ordinary people protesting peacefully”, including members of his own family, and that nobody had links with criminal gangs.
Source: EUobserver, OEIC staff