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EU slams Kosovo, Serbia for not taking steps to lower tensions

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Foreign policy chief warns of new sanctions if escalatory moves continue.

The EU on Tuesday deplored Kosovo and Serbia for not taking steps to diffuse tensions and warned of sanctions if Belgrade and Pristina continue to escalate instead of normalizing relations in line with the deal brokered by the bloc.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell issued a statement on the bloc’s expectations as a follow-up of last week’s meeting with Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that ended in a deadlock.

Borrell criticized Serbia and Kosovo for “the lack of progress” in “de-escalating the tensions in the north of Kosovo” and pointed out that the “steps taken so far remain insufficient and the security situation in the north remains tense.”

He urged Kosovo to hold early local elections to diffuse tensions, encouraged Kosovo Serbs to participate in the electoral process and called on Serbia to “engage constructively.”

Borrell pointed out that recent moves by Kosovo, such as eviction orders, expropriations, and use of special forces for local policing duties, are against the rule of law and risk causing further tensions.

He said “Serbia’s blocking of the energy roadmap, as well as other attempts are inconsistent” with the EU-brokered deal on normalizing relations.

Borrell urged both parties to start implementing the agreement, and underlined that the “work to establish the Association / Community of Serb Majority Municipalities needs to start without any further delay or pre-condition.”

He explained that the “EU stands ready to lift” the sanctions that were imposed on Kosovo in June “in case of progress in fulfilling the existing requests” but warned that the bloc can also “assess further measures towards both parties, if needed.”

The agreement that Kurti and Vucic struck in March, inlcudes, among other points, the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by Serbia, which high-ranking Serbian officials ruled out shortly thereafter.

Tensions rose so high in May in northern Kosovo following municipal elections in ethnic Serb-dominated areas that NATO decided to deploy 700 more troops in the peacekeeping KFOR mission after 93 of its soldiers were injured.

Launched in 2011, the EU-led Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue aims to normalize relations between the two Balkan neighbors, and to find a mutually agreeable solution to disputes within the framework of a legally binding agreement.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with most UN member states, including the US, UK, France, Germany, and Türkiye, recognizing it as an autonomous country. Serbia, however, still considers Kosovo its territory.

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