Tensions in northern Kosovo reached peak last July when Kosovo authorities sent police and customs to northern border crossings of Brnjak and Jarinje to replace European Union police (EULEX).
Local Serbs, who make majority population in the north and oppose Kosovo independence declared by majority Albanians, responded by setting up barricades and blocking main traffic routes.
KFOR subsequently took control of Brnjak and Jarinje, hut Serbs built alternate mountain roads to Serbia to avoid paying customs fees for goods imported from Serbia.
KFOR action took place only one day after European Commission proposed to grant Serbia a status of an official candidate for EU membership. But the commission tied candidacy bid to removal of barricades and abolition of parallel power structures Belgrade still operates in the north.
EULEX said the Thursday action was aimed at “establishing the rule of law” in the north and Kfor said in a statement it “retains the right to remove the barricades and won’t tolerate them for ever”.
Thursday action passed without incidents, but one Kosovo policeman was killed in violent July clashes and Serbs burned down the Jarinje crossing.
Local Serb leader, Radenko Nedeljkovic, told media Kosovo Serbs understood the delicate situation Serbia was in and said Serbs would “show maximal flexibility in trying to reach a solution for Brnjak and Jarinje”
He said Kosovo Serbs didn’t want to be blamed for blocking Serbia’s advances towards the EU. “We don’t want to go against the state, but the state must also understand our position because this is a matter of our survival here,” Nedeljkovic said.
Belgrade, like Kosovo Serbs, opposes independence, but Kosovo has been recognized by more than 80 countries, including the United States and 22 out of 27 EU members. The EU hasn’t asked for Serbia’s direct recognition of Kosovo, but insists on establishing “good neighborly relations” with Pristina government.