International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Chollet-Kosovo must give its ethnic Serbs greater autonomy

January 15, 2023

The Serbs will have to accept a certain level of sovereignty in the end and Kosovo must grant more autonomy to the Kosovo Serbs, especially with the Community of Serb Municipalities in the north of Kosovo, said US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet.

Chollet, who stayed in the region during the 1990s as a part of the team of then Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, visited Belgrade and Pristina for the first time this week, now in the capacity of a special adviser to the State Department, KoSSev media outlet reported.

 In an interview with the Financial Times, this official described the “step by step” approach as a potential path to progress in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, or as a solution.

 The first step would be for Serbia and Kosovo to normalise relations, even without full mutual recognition, as other countries have done, Chollet said, as carried by this media outlet.

While the Serbs will eventually have to accept a certain level of sovereignty, Kosovo must give its ethnic Serb citizens greater autonomy, especially the formal Community of Serb-majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo, the Financial Times further reported.

After the latest tensions in the north of Kosovo, Chollet said that the US is intensifying diplomatic pressure on Belgrade and Pristina to prevent “violence from metastasising”.

 “The last thing any of us wants right now is a crisis in this part of the world, given that we have the biggest crisis since World War II not far from us”, Chollet was quoted as saying.

 He also said that the US does not want crisis diplomacy, but rather that Belgrade and Pristina start concluding an agreement based on the proposal of the European Union.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/chollet-kosovo-must-give-its-ethnic-serbs-greater-autonomy/

Vucic tours Raska garrison with Chief of General Staff

December 28, 2022
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic toured Tuesday evening the Serbian Armed Forces units stationed between Kraljevo and Raska following which he left for a meeting with Kosovo Serb representatives.
“I finished touring parts of our military’s units, our heroes, and I am off to a meeting with the representatives of the Serbs from Kosovo. I believe in justice and law, but above all I believe in Serbian wisdom, but also strength and determination. Long live freedom-loving Serbia,” Vucic wrote on his official Instagram account.
The Serbian President also posted a photo of what he said was a midnight stroll with Serbian Armed Forces Chief of the General Staff Milan Mojsilovic at the Raska garrison. “A big thank you to all the troops, police officers and Security-Information Agency members for their courage and dedication in preserving our country’s vital interests and ensuring the survival of the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija,” he added.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-tours-raska-garrison-with-chief-of-general-staff/

Serbians block Merdare border checkpoint with Kosovo

December 28, 2022
A group of some 20 people blocked on Tuesday evening the Merdare administrative border crossing from the direction of Kursumlija, Serbia proper, toward Podujevo, Kosovo, in a show of support for the Kosovo Serbs, reported the Serbian state TV (RTS).
A truck with a trailer and tractors were used for roadblocks, reported the RTS, adding that the people who set up the barricade said they would stay there until further notice and expressed hope that they will be supported and joined by others.
Traffic at the Merdare border checkpoint is closed due to the barricades in the territory of Serbia proper, and the Kosovo Interior Ministry advised travelers Tuesday evening to use other border points.
“Serbian criminal groups have blocked the border checkpoint in in Merdare. All compatriots and citizens on the move are informed to use other border points for traffic until further official information by the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo. If you have already entered Serbia, then please use the border points in Mutivoda, White Soil or take the route through North Macedonia (Presevo border crossing) through Skopje. Given the fact that there are many fake news in circulation, which aim to spread fear, please follow @Kosovo_Police about the latest official updates in this regard,” said the Kosovo Police on its official accounts on social networks.
The Serbian Internal Affairs Ministry has not issued any statements regarding this matter.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbians-block-merdare-border-checkpoint-with-kosovo/

Protest in front of Serbian embassy in Tirana

December 27, 2022
Albanian NGOs staged a protest in front of the Serbian embassy in Tirana on Tuesday, Radio Free Europe reported.
The protesters demanded a solution to the current crisis in the north of Kosovo and called the Albanian government to freeze all agreements between Serbia and Albania.
A statement read out at the protest called Albanian President Bairam Begaj to call a meeting of the country’s Security Council, lending support to the same initiative from opposition parties.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/protest-in-front-of-serbian-embassy-in-tirana/

Belgrade daily says Vucic meeting with Kosovo Serbs

December 27, 2022
Belgrade daily Blic said late on Tuesday evening that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was in Raska to meet with a delegation of Kosovo Serbs.
It said on its portal that Vucic was touring military units deployed between the cities of Kraljevo and Raska near the border with Kosovo.
“Vucic, Defense Minister Milos Vucevic, Serbia’s Ambassador in the US Marko Djuric and the head of the government Office for Kosovo Petar Petkovic will talk with representatives of the Serbs from northern Kosovo at the barracks in Raska,” Blic said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/belgrade-daily-says-vucic-meeting-with-kosovo-serbs/

Kosovo minister denies Vucic claims

December 27, 2022
Kosovo Internal Affairs Minister Xhelal Svecla denied claims by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that Pristina had raised the level of combat readiness of its forces.
“Statements that Kosovo raised the level of readiness are completely untrue and are part of the propaganda by Serbia and Russia,” the KoSSev news portal reported him as saying. According to him, the Kosovo police is only doing its everyday job and “not preparing for war”.
Svecla said that the authorities in Pristina do not have an aggressive approach to the latest crisis and have no desire of conquest. “Kosovo’s goal is peace and stability while Serbia has the goals of destabilization and war,” he added. A post on his Facebook profile said that “Serbia, under Russia’s influence, raised combat readiness and ordered the barricades to justify and protect the criminal groups terrorizing Serbs in Kosovo”.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/kosovo-minister-denies-vucic-claims/

KFOR calls for dialogue, Kurti wants barricades removed

December 27, 2022
KFOR commander Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia on Tuesday called for a dialogue to ease tensions while Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti threatened to remove the barricades set up by Serbs in the north if KFOR does not.
General Ristuccia said in a written reply to Pristina-based RTV 21 that the NATO-led force supports a dialogue to ease tensions in northern Kosovo and added that he expects everyone to refrain from any provocative demonstrations of force and avoid anything that could cause an escalation of the tense situation.
Kurti said in an interview for several Bosnia-based media that the Kosovo police will remove the barricades if KFOR does not. “If KFOR does not remove them we will. This can’t go on for months, nor for weeks. This can only take days,” he said.
According to Kurti, KFOR now has to back up its commitment to peace, security and freedom of movement with actions. “If they don’t we will have to deal with the barricades, unfortunately,” he said, adding that he will first talk to KFOR before deciding what to do.
Kurti claimed that some of the people at the barricades are in uniform and are taking orders from Belgrade. Earlier on Tuesday, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic refused to comment claims of Serbian forces in Kosovo.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/kfor-calls-for-dialogue-kurti-wants-barricades-removed/

PM Brnabic says Serbian security forces ready to react

December 27, 2022
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Tuesday that the Serbian security forces are prepared to react to attacks on the Kosovo Serbs.
Brnabic was asked why the Serbian police was placed under the command of the General Staff and replied that this was part of the activities to raise combat readiness to full level. “That means that we are prepared to react if someone attacks the Serbs in Kosovo,” she said.
She refused to comment claims on a pro-regime TV station about alleged Serbian armed forces in Kosovo. An N1 reporter asked the Prime Minister to comment claims made on TV Pink in a special live broadcast following reports of shots fired in northern Kosovo. Guests on the broadcast alleged that Serbian armed forces are in Kosovo.
“I don’t want to talk about that at this moment,” the prime minister said at a news conference. She added that the question should be directed to the people who made the claims. “I didn’t speak about that so the question is not directed at me,” she said.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/pm-brnabic-says-serbian-security-forces-ready-to-react/

Vucic-Pristina, international community trying to expel Serbs

December 27, 2022
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday accused the authorities in Pristina of trying to expel the Serbs from northern Kosovo.
He told reporters after a meeting with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) that Pristina and part of the international community see that as the only way to resolve the Kosovo issue. According to him, banning SPC head Patriarch Porfirije from entering Kosovo “speaks about the people who organized that and that is only partly Pristina”. He said that the international community failed to condemn the ban. “It turns out that we Serbs are to blame for having the SPC and for the Patriarch wanting to go the Patriarch’s seat in Pec,” Vucic said.
He said that “someone hysterically insists on the removal of the barricades” … “Because the Serbs need to be expelled from the north of Kosovo, because that is the only way for them to resolve the problem. I mean the Albanians and part of the international community,” he added.
He also accused part of the international community of threatening to “let (Kosovo Prime Minister Albin) Kurti loose to do what needs to be done” and added that “we know that you all want conflicts, the killing of Serbs, you’ll rejoice at the deaths of Serbs because the important thing for you is to confirm the territorial integrity of so-called Kosovo”. He said that Kosovo’s territorial integrity is also mentioned by “the people who trampled on Serbia’s territorial integrity with NATO”.
The Serbian President said that talks are underway with the European Union and US envoys Miroslav Lajcak and Gabriel Escobar. “We are trying to do everything to keep the peace and reach a compromise solution,” he said. Vucic said that he thinks that a possible agreement won’t happen for at least 10 to 15 days.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-pristina-international-community-trying-to-expel-serbs/

Barricades erected in north Kosovska Mitrovica

December 27, 2022
Two new barricades have been erected n north Kosovo, this time in north Kosovska Mitrovica, of which one in the central part of the city, reported KoSSev, adding that these are the first barricades to be set up in Kosovska Mitrovica in the past 18 days.
A road in downtown north Kosovska Mitrovica is blocked with several trucks loaded with sand and rocks and is closed to traffic.
The second barricade was erected on a bridge leading from north Kosovska Mitrovica to the Mitrovica-Raska main road.
Posters in Albanian calling for a boycott of Serbian goods appeared in a multi-ethnic part of Mitrovica North on Tuesday, right after two new barricades were erected.
Kosovska Mitrovica was the only one of the four municipalities in north Kosovo where there were no barricades. Over the past few days, strong Kosovo Police forces were deployed in the multi-ethnic parts of the city, KoSSev reported.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said that the deadline for the removal of the barricades “is a matter of days”, and that the Kosovo authorities will remove them if KFOR fails to do so.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/barricades-erected-in-north-kosovska-mitrovica/

Kosovo Police approves resignations of Serbs from north Kosovo

December 26, 2022
The Kosovo Police has approved the resignations of the Serbs police officers who served in north Kosovo, adding that it is conducting investigations in connection with “organized pressures” on these officers to resign from the Kosovo Police.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo, Kushtrim Hodaj, told the Kosovapress.com agency that the resignations were approved following the expiry of the 30-day deadline and that “now most of them are no longer formally part of the Kosovo Police.”
We have information that not all off the equipment has been handed over, but mostly weapons, said Hodaj, adding that the Kosovo Police have all the records and the most accurate information because it accepted their resignation on the basis of the official procedure.
Serbs from north Kosovo withdrew from Kosovo’s institutions are the beginning of November after the Kosovo Government suspended Kosovo Police Region North chief Nenad Djuric for refusing to issue warnings to vehicles with Serbian-issued license plates.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/kosovo-police-approves-resignations-of-serbs-from-north-kosovo/

Kosovo PM with KFOR and EULEX-There must be no barricades on roads

December 26, 2022
At a meeting held Monday in Pristina, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, commander of the NATO-led KFOR mission Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia and head of the European Union (EU) Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) Lars-Gunnar Wigermark agreed that there should be no barricades on any roads in Kosovo.
Commenting on the barricades erected on roads in north Kosovo by the Kosovo Serbs, the three officials found that “freedom of movement should be restored,” said a Kosovo Government press release.
“There was also talk about the activities of the criminal structures in north Kosovo, which are seriously affecting the security situation in the country. An agreement was reached at the meeting to continue the close inter-institutional cooperation and coordination of activities, in the service of peace and safety for all Kosovo citizens, which is a common goal and priority of Kosovo’s institutions, KFOR and EULEX,” said the press release.
The „proven professionalism, prudence and courage of the Kosovo police in maintaining security and public order throughout the Kosovo territory“ was highlighted at the meeting.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/kosovo-pm-with-kfor-and-eulex-there-must-be-no-barricades-on-roads/

Serbian Govt-Draft Law on Internal Affairs withdrawn from procedure

December 26, 2022
In consultation and in agreement with Minister of the Interior Bratislav Gasic, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has ordered that the Draft Law on Internal Affairs be withdrawn from the adoption procedure, said the Serbian Government on Monday.
“In accordance with all the discussions that the Prime Minister had with the relevant organizations in the previous days, the Draft Law on Internal Affairs will continue to be worked on through broad consultations,” said the Government press release.
“The goal is to clarify all public doubts and for everyone to understand the intent of the law, which is of particular importance for the safety of all citizens of the Republic of Serbia,” added the Government.
Representatives of the opposition and non-governmental organizations have have been saying that the Draft Law needs to be withdrawn because it is a threat to people’s rights and freedoms.
The politicization of the police and the police officers’ unconstitutional powers were, in short, the key objections to the Draft Law.
The People’s Party announced that they would invite citizens to „large and massive protests“ if the Draft Law on Internal Affairs is not withdrawn from the parliamentary procedure.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-govt-draft-law-on-internal-affairs-withdrawn-from-procedure/

Officials agree to strengthen cooperation between Republika Srpska, Serbia

November 24, 2022

Bosnia Presidency Chair Zeljka Cvijanovic and President of Bosnia's Serb-majority region Milorad Dodik met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday to discuss joint projects planned by Serbia and Bosnian entity as well as strengthening of their "integration through joint programmes," as emphasized by Dodik.

“It is important to stress the commitment we heard about here. It was emphasized that cooperation on projects will continue,” said Dodik addressing the media after the meeting.

He welcomed Serbia’s stance on supporting the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but said it was important that Serbian President knows that “Republika Srpska is in jeopardy when it comes to its constitutional rights.”

Dodik stressed the need to return to “original Dayton,” referring to the peace deal that ended the 1992-95 war and established Bosnia’s constitutional system.

“Until that happens, we see no reason to give our contribution to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he stressed.

Dodik, who assumed the post of Republika Srpska President after the victory in the October 2 elections, said he would work in the upcoming period on the “integration of Republika Srpska and Serbia through joint programmes in education and culture sectors, within the special relations.”

He also announced a joint session of governments of Serbia and Republika Srpska early next month.

Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency Zeljka Cvijanovic said she would like to contribute to better relations between the two countries.

“It does not depend on me only. I wish we could shift from the stage where we in BiH have querulous stance towards the external world to the path where we would see the benefits of implementation of certain projects, where we wouldn’t use them as a way to block things or something,” she said and thanked Serbia for being a partner in various projects.

Vucic also addressed media, stressing that Bosnia and Herzegovina is an important foreign trade partner, and that Serbia has a goal to become a number one foreign trade partner to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I thank to the people of Republika Srpska for standing next to its Serbia at every moment,” said Vucic.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/officials-agree-to-strengthen-cooperation-between-republika-srpska-serbia/

Vucic-We don’t want Kosovo in UN – will you bomb us, make threats?

November 24, 2022

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that Kosovo Serbs will not be returning to Kosovo’s institutions before the Community of Serb Municipalities is established, which was their second condition, in addition to the one regarding the license plate fines. He said people will be able to extend their Serbia-issued license plates as usual. Commenting the European Union’s (EU) proposal for a final agreement, Vucic said Serbia has its own “red lines.”

“We say we don’t want Kosovo in the UN and then what – you bomb us, threaten us with sanctions, what?” Vucic told a media conference in Belgrade, adding that “it is not a problem” to immediately suspend negotiation, but “how do you think you will resolve those problems then.”

Asked what will happen with the snap elections for mayors of four Serb-majority municipalities in north Kosovo, scheduled for December 18, which the Kosovo Serbs have said they would boycott, Vucic said that the Kosovo Serbs have stipulated their condition – the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities.

He noted that this was one of their conditions for their return to the institutions, in addition to their request not to be fined for using Serbia-issued license plated.

“Even if I wanted to – and I don’t – I couldn’t convince Serbs in Kosovo to do something like that,” said the Serbian President.

He said that “not an easy period of time lies ahead,” but that he believes “we will manage to preserve peace and stability.”

Vucic said the KM (Serbia-issued) license plates in Kosovo “are staying and surviving,” and that they can be extended as usual because “there is no obligation attached to this.”

“Two days ago they (Pristina) had a better deal than the one they got yesterday,” said Vucic, adding that there are 7,000 KM (Serbia-issued) license plates in Kosovo and about 2,000 in “central Serbia.”

It is of key importance that the statement issued after the Wednesday meeting reads that all previously reached agreements need to be implemented, said Vucic.

He said the situation among the Serbs in Kosovo is “heated” and that “people are fed up with the Pristina authorities’ terror,” adding that the Serbs are fed up with blackmail, harassment, bullying and do not want to be a national minority.

EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday evening that the chief negotiators of Serbia and Kosovo agreed on the measures to avoid further escalation. “Serbia will stop issuing license plates with Kosovo Cities’ denominations and Kosovo will cease further actions related to re-registration of vehicles,” Borrell explained.

Belgrade’s chief negotiator Petar Petkovic said that the agreement reached with Pristina’s negotiator Besnik Bislimi means that there will be no punitive policy towards Kosovo Serb drivers whose Serbia-issued license plates will remain valid.

Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/vucic-we-dont-want-kosovo-in-un-will-you-bomb-us-make-threats/

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