From: Alice Taylor, Aneta Zachova
Belgrade Fires Mistruths at EU Presidency after Kosovo Membership Bid

As Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic claimed the Czech Presidency has washed its hands of Kosovo’s recent EU membership application, and stated that Hungary would also block its path, it seems the reality, according to those involved, is a little different.

At the end of last week, Kosovo formally applied for EU membership in a move fraught with obstacles as five member states; Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain, do not recognise its independence declared in 2008.

Furthermore, the news did not go down well in Belgrade, which refuses to recognise the sovereignty of its former province and has moved to block its membership to other key international institutions.

On Tuesday, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic claimed that the presidency of the Council of the EU Presidency, currently held by the Czech Republic, will not deal with it.

“The Czech Republic has accepted the application, and according to the announcements, as things are today, in the session that should be held this week, they will only information that they have accepted the application and will no longer put it in the procedure,” Dacic said.

However, according to sources, Dacic’s statement is misleading. 

From the beginning, the Czech Council of the EU Presidency’s plan was to accept the application, which happened on Thursday (15 December). Moreover, the Czech Presidency source told that it had not only informed the other member states but also forwarded Kosovo’s application to the Council on Tuesday (20 December). 

As learnt, no more could have been done at this stage by the Czech Presidency, and the work has to continue under the Swedish Presidency, which starts on 1 January.

For the application to proceed, a consensus among member states is needed, which will be hard to come by. Dacic, however, also claimed that Hungary could stand in its way.

“There are five countries, including Greece, that have not recognised Kosovo, and given the position of Hungary, which, despite recognising Kosovo, he does not vote for it in international forums”, Dacic emphasised.

EURACTIV contacted the Hungarian government for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

Furthermore, it is unclear exactly which international forums Hungary has voted against Kosovo and for what reason.

Dacic’s comments are to be taken with a pinch of salt when tensions are simmering between the two countries in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo and along the border.

Serbs have erected barricades along key routes to the border between Kosovo and Serbia, remaining in place for the last ten days as sporadic attacks on police and vandalism continue.

On Tuesday, Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani met with the commander of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force KFOR Angelo Michel Ristuccia to discuss the situation.

“Today, President Vjosa Osmani hosted the commander of KFOR, Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia, with whom she talked about the latest developments and security in the country,” the announcement on the president’s Facebook states.

North Kosovo attacks intensify, Belgrade asks NATO to send in military

KFOR recently announced it had increased the number of patrol teams in the north just days after Serbian President Aleksander Vucic formally asked NATO to send its own troops to the country under UN Resolution 1244.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that even removing the barricades carries a risk of injuries. He told The Guardian he had given KFOR time to persuade those behind the blockades to dismantle them, but he was concerned that matters could escalate.

“Our concern is that the removal of these barricades cannot exclude victims, and that is why we want to be as careful as possible, to make sure that there will be no destabilisation and that there will be relative peace and security,” he said.

“However, we cannot allow this violation of legality and constitutionality forever. So, yes, this should end; the sooner, wouldthe better,” he added.

As tensions continue in Kosovo, Vučić lashes out at Germany

The Minister of Internal Affairs of Kosovo, Xhelal Sveçla, then accused Goran Rakiç from the Serbian List of being behind the barricades, in collaboration with criminal organisations.

In a post on Facebook, Sveçla said that “the only language they know is murders, while the only language we know is stability, order and law, towards everyone and without distinction”.

“We are making maximum efforts with our partners to remove the barricades without any possible escalation in the meantime they are arming the gangs inside the barricades. They do not have the support of Serbian citizens in their criminal acts, therefore they try to scare them with fictions about murders and murder lists”, Sveçla wrote.

Meanwhile, EULEX, the EU-backed rule of law mission in Kosovo described the situation as “disturbing” and “tense”.

“During our patrols in the field, we witness a disturbing presence of armed men, often by masked individuals and groups, in the north of Kosovo. This is unacceptable. We are witnessing the installation of additional barricades, which must be removed immediately,” EULEX said.