EU Trying To Sway Serbia Over Kosovo Serbs

The European Union is trying to convince Belgrade not to pursue its plan for parallel structures in Serb areas of Kosovo, said the head of Kosovo’s International Civilian Office, Pieter Feith.

Belgrade has vowed to never recognise Kosovo’s secession in February last year and is keeping a firm hold on pockets of Serb minority communities in Kosovo, setting up a network of parallel health, education and social security structures that mean Serbs in Kosovo need have little to do with the Albanian authorities in Pristina. Analysts say this paves the way for a partition along ethnic lines.

“The realities on the ground are that Belgrade has influence on the Serb community north of the Ibar,” Feith said in an interview for the ‘Life in Kosovo’ talk show. “Unfortunately, but this is how it is. And we have a good dialogue with Belgrade, this is a part of our border dialogue to allow Serbia, like Kosovo, to benefit from its European perspective.”

“But we have to remind the Serb government to honour its commitments, that the main criminal elements in the north need to be brought to justice and eliminated from any political activity ” he said, building on earlier statements that violence in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, divided between Serbs in the north and Albanians in the south, was related to crime and smuggling.

The town has been a hotbed of tension since Kosovo’s Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in February, nine years after NATO expelled Serb forces accused of mass killings while fighting a guerrilla insurgency. In late December and early January, tensions in the town spilled over to violent protests, street fights and ambushes that have injured several people and caused extensive property damage.

Feith said that the situation in Mitrovica would likely remain tense if the security situation was not addressed, adding that the European Union supervisory mission deployed in Kosovo in December was a reminder to Belgrade “to create conditions for the EULEX mission’s success.”

He called on local Serbs to stop boycotting local government bodies as the “full participation of the Serbian community in municipal elections would supersede the parallel institutions.”

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