On June 22, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that he told the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo that “arbitrary or unrightful arrests or mistreatment of prisoners [are] completely unacceptable” and that the EU’s civilian mission to Kosovo (EULEX) “will play a more robust role in monitoring in this context” from now on.
After meeting separately in Brussels with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Borrell stated that he called for a thorough investigation into the recent arrests of Serbs in northern Kosovo, most of whom are suspected of assault during the protests in front of local government offices.
“I also stressed to President Vučić that the three Kosovo policemen held in Serbia need to be released immediately and unconditionally,” Borrell stated.
The high representative explained that the focus of the meetings with Vucic and Kurti – both of which were also attended by EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak – was to de-escalate the situation in Kosovo’s north, organize new local elections and resume negotiations and the implementation of the agreements made so far.
“We presented to the parties our clear expectations,” Borrell explained. “To Kosovo, to immediately suspend police operations in the vicinity of the municipal buildings in the north of Kosovo and for the four mayors to temporarily perform their duties in premises out of the municipal buildings. For Serbia, to ensure that protestors will withdraw from the municipal buildings simultaneously with the withdrawal of the Kosovo police. To both, to announce early [local] elections, as soon as possible, in all four municipalities with the unconditional participation of the Kosovo Serbs.”
The latest crisis in northern Kosovo has been ongoing since May 26, when the new, ethnically-Albanian mayors chosen in the elections Serbs boycotted entered the local government offices in Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok with the aid of Kosovo Special Forces. The situation was further exacerbated on June 14, when three Kosovo Police officers were arrested by Serbian authorities. Belgrade maintains that the individuals were apprehended in Central Serbia, while Pristina claims they were “abducted” from northern Kosovo in a Serbian act of aggression.