EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that the EU is ready to consider “punitive measures” against Serbia if the country does not comply with the union’s requests.
“Brussels is closely monitoring whether Serbia fulfills the EU’s requirements regarding the calming of tensions in the north of Kosovo, and if it judges that Belgrade does not comply with them, it is ready to consider the introduction of punitive measures against the authorities in Serbia,” said Borrell, according to regional broadcaster N1.
Borrell’s remarks came after the weekend clashes in the northern part of the country which left one police officer dead.
“Measures have been taken in connection with Kosovo. These are political and financial measures, among which are the suspension of high-level visits and events, except for the dialogue led by the EU. Those measures also have an impact on financial support for Kosovo.
“The suspension is temporary and reversible and will be lifted as soon as there is de-escalation on the field. At the same time, we are closely monitoring whether Serbia meets EU requirements and in case of non-compliance, the EU is ready to consider measures,” said Borrell in a written reply to questions from the Serbian media.
Borrell’s letter did not mention the clashes that took place between a Serbian armed group and Kosovo police on Sunday. However, he added that diplomatic efforts are continuing and the clashes in May should not be repeated.
“De-escalation needs to happen now, from both sides. The violent acts on 29 May 2023, which left many of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops, as well as citizens, law enforcement, and media (journalists) injured, are completely unacceptable and cannot happen again in the future,” Borrell said.
On Sunday, a clash broke out in the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo near the Serbian border when a group of armed Serbs blocked a bridge with two trucks. A shootout erupted after the group opened fire on police, leaving one police officer dead and another injured.
A large number of security forces were dispatched to the region, and the Brnjak border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia was closed. The area has been the scene of unrest since April, when local ethnic Serbs boycotted elections in northern Kosovo, followed by protests against the election of ethnic Albanian mayors.
Albanians are by far the largest ethnic group in Kosovo, followed by Serbs, with about half living in the country’s north. Amid the unrest over the elections, NATO peacekeepers were deployed, including a group of extra Turkish reinforcements.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and gained recognition from many countries, including Türkiye. But Belgrade has never recognized Kosovo and claims that its territory is still part of Serbia.