The EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo has condemned the use of roadblocks by local Serbs, who are attempting to stop EULEX custom officers from working in the north of the country.
Roadblocks were erected on Monday and Tuesday on the roads leading to Gates 1 and 31 in northern Kosovo, and demonstrators tried to prevent EULEX customs officers from reaching the crossings.
Mile Vukojevic, member of Leposavic Municipal Council, told Serbian media that the protests would continue until EULEX custom officers withdraw from the border points.
But EULEX said it has a mandate to carry out its activities all over Kosovo.
Karin Limdal, police spokesperson for the EU mission, said: “This mandate has been confirmed in the invitation by the Kosovo authorities and in a letter sent by the President of Serbia, Mr Tadic, to the EU High Representative, Mr [Javier] Solana.”
Limdal added that both “custom day shifts managed to get through to the gates” on Tuesday.
From mid-January 2009, EULEX customs officers have maintained a 24-hour presence at Gates 1 and 31, and, after February 1, officers began to register commercial goods crossing the border point.
From midnight on May 20, EULEX tightened controls at the gate by inspecting identification cards of truck drivers carrying commercial goods and their invoices listing the value and type of goods. Licences have been photocopied and an EULEX stamp placed on the invoice.
Limdal added: “EULEX has, as well as coordinating with the Kosovo authorities, clearly communicated all those measures in meetings with the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Serbian Tax and Customs Administrations officials and a representative of the Minister for Kosovo where there were no adverse comments on the new measures to be established at Gates 1 and 31.
“In addition there has been no rejection of letters that the head of EULEX customs sent to the Serbian Minister of Finance informing about the planned measures.
“These activities from EULEX’s side have resulted in a sharp decrease in smuggling which is to the benefit of all communities. At no point has EULEX collected revenues. This is a political decision that can not be taken by EULEX.”