Kosovo: Serbs remove barricades as EU ponders membership bid

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For more than five months, Serbs have been blocking main roads in northern Kosovo to stop the country’s ethnic Albanian leadership from extending their control over parts of Kosovo.  

Today, local Serbs in northern Kosovo started removing barricades in northern Kosovo, as European Union ministers at a meeting in Brussels neared a decision on granting Serbia a status of an official candidate for EU membership.
By Vedat Xhymshiti / Jagenice, KOSOVO (north) – Monday, December 5, 2011

In EU sponsored talks, Belgrade and Pristina delegations reached a last minute agreement late on Friday on joint management of border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo, whose majority Albanians declared independence in 2008.

Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs oppose Kosovo independence, but Serbian officials agreed to “integrated border control” to be manned by Serbian and Kosovo police and customs and European Union mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
EU has tied Serbia’s bid for membership to establishing “good neighborly relations” with Kosovo and to removal of barricades set up by local Serbs in protest against placing of Kosovo police and customs at the border.
Scores of Serb civilians and NATOsoldiers have been injured in ensuing clashes and one Kosovo policeman was killed in July.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said last week Serbia hasn’t met conditions for the candidate status, but Friday agreement revived Belgrade’s already sunk hopes. President Boris Tadiccalled on Kosovo Serbs to remove the barricades, which they refused saying the agreement with Pristina amounted to recognition of Kosovo.

But in an atmosphere abounding with contradictions and ambiguities, they started removing roadblocks on Monday, still vowing the people will remain at barricades. “It doesn’t mean that barricades will be removed and that people will withdraw,” Slavisa Ristic, a Kosovo Serb leader told media.

EU ministers are expected to reach a decision later on Monday, but Tadic, who has set EU membership as his primary goal, said Serbia will persist on EU path regardless of the outcome.
Even if the decision is unfavorable, “Serbia must go on”, Tadic said. “It isn’t a definite defeat, but one lost battle,” he concluded.





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Vedat Xhymshiti; is an independent journalist and war correspondent. He has reported on a number of Middle Eastern conflicts from the Arab Spring in 2010 to the current Syrian civil war. He has been published in various media including Der Spiegel, NY Times, TIME, Paris Match, Le Monde ect. He is specialized in International Relations and Diplomacy. Xhymshiti is also a print media critic, a columnist for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and founder of THEFrontliner.net

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