Kosovo Government and EU Agree on De-escalation Steps in the North

The Kosovo Government and the European Union have agreed on the de-escalation steps in the northern municipalities, after the recent months’ unrest .

The Kosovo government confirmed on Tuesday that it has agreed to de-escalation steps in the northern municipalities, starting with a 25 per cent reduction in police presence in and around municipal buildings in the north.

The government also supports holding early mayoral elections in four northern municipalities “after the summer season.”

“Kosovo expresses its commitment to ensuring the necessary legal basis to enable the organization of these elections,” added the government.

As announced by the government, the EU will invite the two chief negotiators to Brussels with the aim of finalizing the sequencing plan for the Agreement towards Normalization, after which the implementation of all the articles of the agreement will begin.

“The above-mentioned actions will be finalized within a two-week period,” it further stated.

An EU spokesperson also confirmed the news to BIRN, adding that Special Envoy Miroslav Lajcak has invited the Kosovo and Serbia Chief Negotiators to Brussels next week.

“The EUSR has invited the Chief Negotiators to Brussels next week to continue discussions on the implementation of the new Agreement on the Path to Normalization and its implementation Annex, with the expectation that the parties agree on the next steps that enable full implementation of the Agreement to commence with no further delay,” said the EU spokesperson to BIRN.

The agreement between the parties came after Lajcak had an informal bilateral meeting with Kosovo’s chief negotiator, Besnik Bislimi, in Bratislava on Monday.

Regarding the situation in the north, in June, increasing pressure on Albin Kurti’s embattled government, the EU announced a package of ‘reversible’ measures against Kosovo, citing its failure to restore calm in the Serb-majority north.

Some of the measures mentioned include “suspension of high-level visits, contacts, and events as well as our financial cooperation with Kosovo.”

Protests in Zvecan, Leposavic, and Zubin Potok started one day after the newly elected mayors of these Serb-majority municipalities took their oaths of office following elections that Serbs boycotted en masse. The protesters urged the three new ethnic Albanian mayors not to work from municipality facilities and for Kosovo police to be withdrawn.

On May 29, 30 NATO troops from the KFOR peacekeeping mission were injured in violent clashes with protesting Serbs. Around 50 protesters also received medical attention.

Since the start of the protests on May 26, Kosovo’s Association of Journalists has registered over 20 attacks against media crews.

The US was the first to take measures against Kosovo in late May by canceling Kosovo’s participation in the US-led Defender Europe 2023 military exercise.