Balkans | Barricade wars in Kosovo

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Balkans |  Barricade wars in Kosovo

While Kosovo officials argue that Serbs organized roadblocks by the Serb minority in every issue, the Belgrade administration denies these allegations.

After unilaterally declaring its independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo has seen roadblocks and roadblocks several times due to conflicts with Serbs living in the north of the country.

The barricades were generally set up in response to the operations carried out by the Kosovo Police in the north and the decision taken by the Kosovo government.

Kosovo officials say that these actions of the Serbs, who are trying to find a solution to every problem by building roadblocks, were organized by Serbia, while Serbia denies these allegations.

The first of the series of obstacles that will continue as “The Barricades Story” began in 2011 with the placing of barriers on the bridge over the Ibri River in the city of Mitrovica and in 15 different locations around the city by a group called the “Bridge Guardians”.

Since the end of the war in 1999, the bridge has become a symbol of the division between Albanians living in the south of the city and Serbs living in the north.

Barriers were erected on the bridge after the Kosovo Police operation to take control of the Yarenje and Brinjak border gates. A day after the barriers were removed in 2014, Serbs placed concrete pots on the bridge, this time causing protests, while some citizens were injured, and cars were set on fire.

The wall that divides Mitrovica in two

Serbian authorities in Mitrovica built a nearly two-meter wall in December 2016 as part of an EU-mediated project to revitalize the bridge over the Ibri River on August 25, 2015.

The bill to demolish the wall, which caused tension between Kosovo and Serbia, was approved by the Assembly of Kosovo at the end of 2016 and it was decided to demolish the wall in January 2017. The wall was demolished only in February 2017.

Barricades

After 19 Kosovo police officers, including ethnic Serbs, were detained by the Kosovo Police in May 2019, the roads were blocked off with barriers, but the barriers themselves were removed by the Kosovo Security Forces.

During the operation, 5 police officers and civilians were wounded who tried to block the roads with roadblocks to prevent the operation.

In September 2019, protests began in the north of the country after Kosovo did not allow vehicles with Serbian license plates to pass, and vehicles were given temporary Kosovo plates.

In this context, the Kosovo Serb demonstrators blocked the road leading to the Yarenje and Brinjak border gates on the Serbian border in the north of the country.

After the agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, the barriers were removed at the beginning of October.

Another incident from the barricades is that the Government of Kosovo, in line with the principle of reciprocity with Serbia in July 2022, “issues provisional declaration forms to those entering/exiting Kosovo with Serbian identity cards” and “RKS” (Republic of Kosovo) announced that decisions regarding the transfer of plates The Republic of Kosovo will enter into force.

The Kosovo government decided to postpone the implementation that caused the crisis until September 1, on the condition that all roadblocks to the border crossings with Serbia be removed at a later date.

Finally, the Kosovo side announced that the re-registration of license plates, which they called “illegal”, would be postponed to April 2023, and that owners of these vehicles would first be warned, then fined, and finally the plates would be tested and placed.

While the latest incident is still fresh, a masked group attacked the offices of the Central Election Commission and Kosovo police officers last week during preparations for early local elections in 4 Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo.

Kosovar Serbs set up barricades in the north of the country on Saturday, December 10, after Kosovo police detained Dejan Pantik, a former Serbian police officer they considered a suspect in the attacks.

The EULEX patrol team was attacked with stun grenades near barricades set up by local Serbs in the Rudari district of Zvecan municipality in northern Kosovo.

The European Union, NATO, the United States and the United Kingdom have called for a de-escalation in northern Kosovo.

In a statement following these events, the President of Kosovo, Fyuza Osmani, announced the postponement of early local elections, which were scheduled to take place on December 18 in 4 municipalities in the north of the country, to April 2023 due to insecurity during the voting period.

It was decided to hold early local elections after Serbs withdrew from local institutions due to the recent license plate incidents in the country.

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