Sign InNew User? Sign Up
News Home -
EU mission in Kosovo, Belgrade sign police accord
AFP - Saturday, September 12
PRISTINA (AFP) - - Representatives of the EU mission in Kosovo (EULEX) signed an agreement with Serbia on police cooperation Friday in a move that drew strong protests from the government in Pristina.
"These arrangements, signed today on behalf of EULEX with the full support of the EU 27 member states, are an important step forward with a view to improve the rule of law throughout the whole of Kosovo," EULEX spokesman Christophe Lamfalussy said in a statement.
The policing accord, discussed for weeks between Belgrade and EULEX officials, is intended to combat organised crime and smuggling.
But the government in Kosovo, whose independence has been recognised by much of the European Union despite protests from Serbia, said the accord was an infringement on their sovereignty.
In a joint statement, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said they "do not support the agreement," but vowed their commitment to "further cooperation with the EU."
"The Republic of Kosovo is not a party in technical arrangements between EULEX and the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Serbia for cooperation in the field of police," the statement said.
They added that "such arrangements do not and can not have any impact on independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosovo."
Kosovo announced it was formally splitting from Serbia last year, almost a decade after a NATO-led war which ended in defeat for the then Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's forces.
Backed by its traditional ally Russia, Serbia opposes the move, recognised so far by 62 countries, including the US and majority of the EU.
The rift is the worst between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership and the EU mission since it arrived in the disputed Balkan territory at the start of this year in place of a United Nations mission.
It follows the arrest on Tuesday of 20 ethnic Albanian activists who, angered over the same issue, stoned and slashed the tyres of nearly 30 EULEX vehicles before overturning them.
And a group of Kosovo non-governmental organizations said they would hold a protest against EULEX on September 16 in Pristina.
"Let us all together say 'No' to the violation of sovereignty," they said.
Lamfalussy however sought to play down divisions, saying that "the arrangements on police cooperation with Belgrade are of a technical nature."
"They aim at fighting organised crime and smuggling. This will be to the benefit to all the people in Kosovo," he said, adding that the Kosovo police force "will be heavily involved in the exchange of information."
"In order to bring criminals to justice evidence needs to be shared and exchanged through the region and mechanisms need to be established to facilitate this.
"It is important to underline that EULEX is here to support Kosovo in the rule of law area and would never take any steps that would harm Kosovo," he insisted."
Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic meanwhile said the accord "will regulate cooperation in a fight against organized crime, illegal drug trade and all other issues related to cross-border crime."
EULEX has around 2,000 staff on the ground in Kosovo, which also hosts almost 14,000 international troops serving under NATO's Kosovo Force and a small contingent of the United Nations.
Sign in to recommend this article »
0 users recommend
Related Articles: World
Britain's military training Libyan forces: reportsAFP - 2 hours 50 minutes ago
British community tensions flare in mosque stand-offAFP - Saturday, September 12
Activists file lawsuit over right to protest G20AFP - Saturday, September 12
Nation marks Sept. 11 with acts of volunteerismAP - Saturday, September 12
White House stiffens against illegal immigrantsAP - Saturday, September 12