30th May 2023

EU Kosovo mission delayed amid protests

The deployment of EULEX, the EU's police and justice mission in Kosovo, is to start on 9 December, a week later than planned, it was announced on Tuesday (2 December), as several thousand Kosovo Albanian demonstrators took to the streets of Pristina to protest against the deployment.

"We are ready, but there is some fine tuning to be settled first," Viktor Reuter, spokesperson for EULEX, told German news agency DPA in Pristina, referring to wrangling between Serbia, Kosovo, the EU and UN.

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  • Kosovars protesting, waving both the Albanian and Kosovar flags (Photo: European Parliament)

Under a plan approved by the United Nations Security Council last week, some 2,000 EU police, justice and customs officials will take over UN duties in Kosovo.

It also foresees the EU mission being deployed under a UN mandate and take a neutral position regarding Kosovo's status – something which pleases Belgrade, but enrages Pristina.

Kosovo, which had been under UN administration since 1999, unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February this year, but Belgrade has said it would never recognise the new state and still considers it part of Serbia.

Both sides agreed last week to co-operate fully with EULEX, but Pristina still categorically opposes the elements of the plan that are neutral to its status, arguing it goes against its sovereignty.

"Lately it hasn't been easy, because legal problems had to be solved," and because of the difficulty of satisfying both Kosovars and Serbs, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner – whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency – said on Tuesday, while adding the objective of the mission was to start "in a few days."

'EULEX made in Serbia'

Meanwhile, some 4,000 people protested in the streets of Kosovo's capital yesterday, brandishing posters with "Kosovo in the EU, not under the EU," and "EULEX made in Serbia" written on them, the BBC reports.

Protest organiser and leader of the Self-determination Movement, Albin Kurti, expressed concerns that the EU officials would "have immunity from the law," adding: "They will also be above the law".

Kosovars also fear the mission as planned will effectively partition their country, populated by 90 percent Albanians, and a minority of Serbs, mostly in the northern areas.

"For us, it is important ... to see EULEX deployed as soon as possible across [the whole of] Kosovo," President Fatmir Sejdiu said Tuesday, adding that he did not "understand the delays," DPA writes.

For his part, Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, stressed on Monday that the EU's mission "will be meaningful only if from day one it is also installed in the northern Mitrovica" – a town divided between Kosovar Albanians in the south and Serbs in the north.

"If EULEX doesn't start in the north on the very first day, then this mission will become senseless," he added.

Another protest against EULEX took place in Pristina a week ago, while on 14 November its offices in the city were bombed.

Three Germans alleged to be agents of the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) were initially accused of causing the blast, but were freed last weekend.

Meanwhile, a previously unknown Albanian group calling itself the Army of the Republic of Kosovo claimed responsibility for the attack.

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