Hundreds more Serbian police join ‘dangerous’ boycott of Kosovo

Hundreds more Kosovar-Serb police officers have quit in northern Kosovo in an ongoing protest that risks looking like de facto secession.

The total number of officers who surrendered their badges, handcuffs and weapons rose to 578 on Monday (November 7th), Kosovo police said, after around 300 resignations on Sunday.

Employees of a private security company, Balkan International, who guarded an EU office in the Serb-majority town of North Mitrovica have also quit, said Eulex, the EU police mission in Kosovo.

The massive walkouts forced the Kosovo Police to move other units to the restive North Mitrovica region “due to the lack of [local] sufficient personnel and police capacity”.

Eulex also “reinforced its mobile reconnaissance patrols in northern Kosovo” with a 105-strong unit and “provided a security presence” to the EU office in the hotspot.

“If necessary, the mission [Eulex] can deploy an additional reserve formed police unit to further reinforce its forces on the ground,” he said.

But he “did not take over policing responsibilities in northern Kosovo” from the national police, he stressed. The 14 Serbs working at Eulex have not quit either, he added.

The protests began when a Serbian-born police commander came out last week for refusing to replace Serbian car license plates with Kosovar ones under a new law.

Disgruntled Serbs in the northern enclave also want autonomy through the creation of an Association of Serbian Municipalities (ASM) with decentralized powers.

The anger is fueled by nationalist rhetoric from Belgrade and Russian disinformation.

The resignations also include the mayors of four Serbian regions on the border with Serbia, local judges and prosecutors, and the 10 Serbian deputies of the Pristina parliament, which amounts to an almost complete split in the central authorities.

But ethnic Serbs in six regions of southern Kosovo have remained silent so far.

There were also no inter-ethnic clashes in northern Kosovo, but the cars of some Serbs who changed plates were set on fire, in what the EU’s external service described as “a very dangerous” on Monday.

“If the escalation continues, no one can rule out an outbreak of violence,” an EU spokesman said.

This could have “serious consequences” for the entire region, he warned, amid long-standing threats by Bosnian Serbs to secede from federal authorities and opt for autonomy.

The EU spokesperson urged both sides in Kosovo to adopt a “more European attitude”.

He also urged Pristina to create the ASM in accordance with the promises of its previous governments, even if the current Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, sees it as a threat to the territorial integrity of Kosovo.

“This is a binding legal obligation for Kosovo and the continued non-compliance with this obligation undermines the principle of the rule of law in Kosovo and damages Kosovo’s reputation,” the spokesperson said. word of the EU.

Kosovo broke away from Serbia in a war that ended with NATO bombing of Serbian forces in 1999.

It declared its independence in 2008 and wants to join the EU, but five EU states, plus Serbia and Russia, don’t recognize its sovereignty and its people don’t even have visa-free travel from the EU yet. EU.

NATO still has a force of some 3,600 soldiers in Kosovo, who would intervene as a last resort if the national authorities and Eulex could not cope.


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