North Kosovo Violence ‘Crime-Linked’ – EULEX

The violence in Kosovo’s Serb-populated north earlier this month was not explicitly political but linked to crime, said the chief of the European Union’s police and justice mission in Kosovo.

Most of the120,000 Serbs who live in Kosovo among two million Albanians reject the territory’s declaration of independence from Serbia. In late December and early January, simmering tensions in the divided city of Mitrovica spilled over to violent protests, street fights and ambushes that injured several people and caused extensive property damage.

“The incidents are more connected with a type a business or smuggling, in which we have to say there’s a multiethnic activity”, Yves de Kermabon, chief of the EULEX mission, told reporters in Pristina.
“Certain people are manipulating these incidents to heighten tensions and prove that there is no security in Mitrovica, which isn’t true.”

He said he expected Serb members of the Kosovo police to keep the situation under control, and added that EULEX was steadily deploying all over Kosovo, with full deployment expected by the end of the winter.

International watchdogs have criticised Kosovo for its record on interethnic relations as well as for its performance on corruption, policing and the fight against crime, especially in the north.

With Pristina and Belgrade vying with the United Nations and European Union missions for authority on the ground , border patrols and policing have been hampered by inter-ethnic squabbling, creating an ideal environment for smugglers and organised crime gangs.

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