A spokesperson for the European Union, in a response to Radio Free Europe, confirmed on the evening of 1 July that punitive measures had been communicated to the Government of Kosovo since 28 June, as a result of the EU’s assessment that Kosovo has not taken the required steps to reduce tensions in the north.
“Kosovo, unfortunately, has not yet taken the necessary steps. Therefore, the EU, as it had warned in its statement on behalf of the member states on 3 June by the High Representative [Josep Borrell], has decided to implement several measures,” the response states.
The response to Radio Free Europe then lists the punitive measures imposed on Kosovo.
These include: the temporary suspension of the work of the bodies established on the basis of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), Kosovo’s exclusion from high-level meetings and the suspension of bilateral visits, except those focusing on addressing the crisis in northern Kosovo within the framework of the EU-facilitated dialogue.
Other measures include the halt of programming funds for Kosovo from IPA 2024 (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance). Kosovo’s proposals within the Framework of Investment in the Western Balkans have not been submitted for review by the board on 29 and 30 June.
“The European Commission informed the authorities of Kosovo on 28 June [about these measures]. These measures are temporary and entirely reversible depending on developments on the ground and decisions to de-escalate the situation by Prime Minister [of Kosovo, Albin] Kurti,” the response states.
The EU reiterates the messages that have been continuously given in recent days for immediate steps to reduce tensions.
They repeat the demands to Kosovo to immediately suspend police operations near municipal buildings in northern Kosovo, for mayors to carry out their duties from other buildings, to declare snap elections in all four municipalities, and to involve Serbs living in those municipalities.
These measures were publicly announced on 27 June. During the meeting of the Government of Kosovo held on 29 June, Kurti said that Kosovo has been critical of the EU in some cases but “never cynical or resentful”, adding that the authorities are not resentful even after the imposition of punitive measures.
Several joint commission meetings between Kosovo and Serbia, established under the SAA, have now been canceled, and Kosovo has not been invited to several other meetings.
The EU states that they are also monitoring Serbia’s behavior and that measures may be taken against Serbia as well if it does not act according to the expectations for de-escalating the situation.
Tensions in northern Kosovo, predominantly inhabited by Serbs, began on 26 May when newly appointed Albanian mayors of Zvečan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavić entered the municipal buildings under the escort of the Kosovo Police.
Serbs opposed this and have since been protesting, demanding the withdrawal of the new mayors and special police units.
The international community has presented three main requests to Kurti: calming the situation in the north, holding new elections in the four northern municipalities, and returning to the dialogue for the normalization of Kosovo-Serbia relations.
Meanwhile, Belgrade has requested that it ensure that Serbs can participate unconditionally in any potential local elections.
Kurti has presented a five-point plan that also includes holding new elections, but for this process, he has stated that the rule of law is needed.