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Timeline 15 Sep 11

Timeline: Tensions in Kosovo North

A summary of the key events leading up to tensions in northern Kosovo.

Gordana Andric

Background

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia has not recognised the country’s independence and Serbs living in the north of Kosovo do not recognise Kosovo’s independence. Two important checkpoints are located in the northern, Serb-populated part of Kosovo and these checkpoints have become the focal point of tension in recent months. Up until July 28, the EU’s rule-of-law mission had been responsible for controlling the two border crossings.

March 8 2011

Belgrade and Pristina commence EU-mediated talks in Brussels. These are the first direct talks the two countries have held since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

July 3 2011

An agreement is reached between Serbia and Kosovo regarding freedom of movement, civil registry and the acceptance of mutual university diplomas.

The next round of talks between the countries is scheduled for late July. Some observers speculate that this will result in Serbia lifting its ban on Kosovo goods. The ban was enforced in 2008 after Kosovo declared its independence and put the words “Republic of Kosovo” on its customs stamps. Serbia has never recognised Kosovo's independence.

July 20 2011

The sixth round of Belgrade - Pristina talks, which were expected to yield an agreement on Kosovo’s custom stamps, are postponed until September.

At 8pm local time, following the postponement of talks and in response to Belgrade’s continued trade ban on Kosovo goods, the Kosovo government decides to have a reciprocal trade ban on products entering the country with Serbian customs stamps.

July 22 2011

Serbia condemns Kosovo’s decision to block imports of goods with Serbian custom stamps as a provocation, saying it will negatively impact on the current EU-moderated dialogue between the two countries.

July 25 2011

The Kosovo government sends some of its special police force to take control of two border crossings in the north of the country in a bid to enforce the trade ban.  The Kosovo government says it is doing this because EULEX – the EU’s rule-of-law mission which has been responsible for controlling the two border crossings since Kosovo declared independence in 2008- has failed to enforce the ban properly.

This provokes anger among the local population, which is predominantly comprised of Serbs who do not recognise Kosovo’s independence, consider themselves part of Serbia and resent the presence of Kosovo forces in the area.

Unrest begins. One police officer is killed in the operation.
The road to the northern town of Leposavic is blocked by trucks placed there by local Serbs.

July 26 2011

Both the EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX, and the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, denies involvement in the police operation.

Kosovo special police pull back from Jarinje and Brnjak, following an agreement between Pristina, Belgrade and KFOR.

Local Serbs in northern Kosovo continue blocking roads to the border points.

July 27 2011

The Mitrovica municipality, which is populated by Serbs, declares a state of emergency, ordering cafes and restaurants to close at 3pm.

Serbia calls for an urgent session of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Kosovo.

Local Serbs in northern Kosovo burn one of the two border points. KFOR confirms the arson attack and there are reports that shots have been fired at KFOR personnel.

July 28 2011

KFOR takes control of the two border checkpoints, which are located in the towns of at Jarinje and Brnjak.  These two crossings are declared as restricted military zones and KFOR is authorized to use deadly force if its troops come under attack.

The Kosovo parliament adopts a resolution backing special police operation.

The UN Security Council issues a statement expressing concern over the ‘unexpected action’.

July 30 2011

The Serbian Parliament adopts a resolution on Kosovo which condemns all violence and calls for the peaceful resolution of the developing crisis.

August 2 2011

The Kosovo Security Council asks security agencies to coordinate their activities closely with the international community in Kosovo to unblock the roads and create new traffic corridors in the predominantly Serb-populated north of the country.

August 4 2011

KFOR and official representatives of Serbia make a draft agreement stating that the local Serbs’ roadblocks should be removed and freedom of movement is to be restored at the border points. The agreement envisages that KFOR will maintain control over the two checkpoints until mid-September and longer, if necessary. Passenger vehicles, trucks of up to 3.5 tonnes and lorries carrying humanitarian aid - including food - would be able to pass after passing security checks under this agreement.

The Kosovo government rejects the terms demanding full control of Gates 1 and 31.

August 5 2011

KFOR and the Kosovo government reach an agreement stating that Kosovo will continue its trade ban on goods entering the country from Serbia, while KFOR troops will be responsible for the border points until September and possibly later.

August 9 2011

Local Serbs remove the first barricades from the town of Leposavic in northern Kosovo.

August 15 2011

All roadblocks that were erected close to the two checkpoints have now been dismantled.

August 31 2011

UN Security Council members call for restraint and urge the resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

September 2 2011

Kosovo and Serbia reach an agreement on Kosovo’s custom stamps allowing Kosovo to export its goods to Serbia for the first time since it declared independence in February 2008. Serbia agrees to accept all goods marked with “Kosovo Customs”. Pristina agrees to remove any state emblems, coats of arms, flags, or use of the word "republic" from its customs stamps.

September 7 2011

Kosovo Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci,says that some of Kosovo’s customs and police officers will take control of the two checkpoints in the north on September 16.

September 15 2011

Kosovo’s PM Hashim Thaci outlined the government’s operational plan for the north, which is being supported by EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX and KFOR.

According to the government’s plan, Kosovo and EULEX border police will be present at Gate 1 in Jarinje for the control of the non-commercial vehicles until the border becomes fully operational.

Vehicles carrying commercial goods without excise will be processed at Gate 31 in Brnjak and vehicles carrying goods with excise – such as alcohol and tobacco- are to go through Gate 3 in Merdare, which is in the east of Kosovo.

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A summary of the key events leading up to tensions in northern Kosovo.