Serbs in Kosovo’s north protested against the construction of border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo before leaders from the two countries met to hammer out details of a European Union-brokered plan on border management.
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his counterpart from Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, meet in Brussels today to finalize the arrangement, due to begin Dec. 10 with stepped up customs controls of trade between Serbia and Kosovo. Several hundred people disrupted road-building works at a checkpoint, Milomir Kuzmanovic, deputy chief of the Serb-populated Leposavic municipality in Kosovo, said.
An agreement with Kosovo is key for Serbia to join the 27-nation EU, which it needs to do in order to converge its economy with Europe after the civil wars of the 1990s hurt the region’s transformation from communism. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a move that was recognized by the U.S. and 22 of the EU’s members. Serbia sees the area as the cultural cradle of its nation and has vowed to reject independence.
“We will never let anyone separate us from Serbia, no border ever ran through this area,” Kuzmanovic said by phone, adding that Serbs in Kosovo’s north don’t want customs controls and seek free movement using Serbian documents and Serbian car license plates.
The rally disrupted road-building works at checkpoint near Jarinje, 180 kilometers (112 miles) south of Belgrade, Kuzmanovic said.
Serbia wants the EU’s police and justice mission in Kosovo, or Eulex, to have executive powers at the crossings, where both Serbian and Kosovo customs officers will be checking trade.
Serbia formally became an EU candidate in March, after fulfilling conditions such as the arrest and extradition of 46 Serbian war crimes suspects, including former strongman Slobodan Milosevic, ex-Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.