Insecurity, riots and killed policemen – Kosovo’s efforts to control the North
“Go to the North”, is a well-known phrase used in Kosovo to show the weakness of the authorities and the police. Prime Minister Kurti himself had done this while talking to a policeman in Pristina during his famous protests. In reality, the North was first tried by former Prime Minister Thaçi in 2011, losing a policeman on duty after the intervention there. The heavy burden of this part of Kosovo has now fallen on the shoulders of Prime Minister Kurti, who last night faced the disobedience of the Serbs and unrest on the edge of the conflict.
Last night everything started with the alarm of the city in Northern Mitrovica, which for some time now has become the bell that warns of riots in that part of the country.
The situation in the north became tense, just a few hours before the Government’s decision to implement reciprocity with license plates and documents issued by Serbia came into force.
The tensions in the north, which usually connected with the two border crossings with Serbia, in Jarinje and Bërnjak, have been repeated since the declaration of Kosovo’s independence.
In February 2008, immediately after the announcement, the Serbs burned the two border points. A month later, an UNMIK policeman died due to tensions during a protest by Serbs in that area.
2011: Enver Zymberi is killed
In 2021, at the end of July, by order of the former Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, the Special Operative Unit started the action to control the two border points in the north.
Two vehicles of the Special Unit that had gone to the border points, on the main road, in the vicinity of the village of Çaber of Zubin Potok, encountered sand barricades. When they took a secondary road, they were blocked by several cars, from which about 10 people had got out.
According to the description of an indictment filed by a Eulex prosecutor, the gunmen, after refusing to clear the road, climbed the mountain next to the road. From there, bullets were fired at the Police cars and the policeman Enver Zymberi, who was driving one of the convoys, was killed.
Eleven years after his murder, the Minister of the Interior, Xelal Sveçla, commemorated him in the place where Zymberi fell – who had gone there to extend sovereignty. A few meters away from Svečla, bowing in honor of the policeman, the flag of Serbia was flying.
Clashes with KFOR and Eulex
After 2011, there was no Kosovo Police intervention in the northern municipalities, inhabited by a majority of Serbs. The international authorities located in this area had faced attacks.
In 2012, there were clashes in an attempt by KFOR to remove barricades blocking traffic with the northern part. Serbs and members of KFOR were injured. A year later, an armed attack was carried out on two Eulex vehicles, which were headed to the border crossing point in Jarinje. One of the Eulex customs officers was killed there.
Year 2016: Construction of the wall that divided Mitrovica in two
Mitrovica had been divided for a long time with the Ibri Bridge as a border in the middle, but in 2016 this division was made with a wall.
The municipal authorities of North Mitrovica had built a wall, which came down in early 2017. The demolition of the wall was done with an agreement with the central government mediated by the American embassy in Pristina and the European Union office.
Local Serbian authorities said the wall was part of a project to build a promenade and was not aimed at dividing the city.
2017: Stopping the Russian train
Great tensions were raised by an attempt by Belgrade to bring a train into Kosovo, which had the inscription “Kosovo is Serbia” in 21 different languages. The government of Kosovo, which at that time was led by Isa Mustafa, gave an order not to allow the Serbian train.
The police of Kosovo did not allow a train of passengers and officials of the government of Serbia to enter Kosovo, which had started from Belgrade and was destined for the north of Kosovo.
The Serbian president informed the public about the failure of the Russian train and complained to the EU for its lack of reaction.
The train was called the “Russian train”, as it was said to be Russia’s gift to Serbia.
Year 2018: Arrest of Marko Djuric in the North
In March 2018, Marko Gjurić, one of the highest officials of the Serbian Government, who headed a so-called “Office for Kosovo”, entered the north of Kosovo without permission.
Kosovo and Serbia had signed an agreement according to which each other’s state officials would request permission to enter.
Gjuriq had violated this agreement by entering Kosovo illegally and for this he was arrested and brought to the main police station in Pristina.
This was one of the events that had provoked reactions in Pristina and Belgrade. Of course, accompanied by the reactions of the EU, which traditionally repeats calls to “stop tensions”.
Year 2021: Two weeks of tension and barricades after reciprocity
In September 2021, the Government of Kosovo established reciprocity for car plates registered in Serbia, just as the Serbian state acted for citizens entering with cars with Kosovo registration.
Prime Minister Kurti had said that the decision to reciprocate license plates was not an action against the Serbian citizens of Kosovo.
“As prime minister, I assure you that the actions taken today by the competent bodies for the implementation of this are not directed against Serbian citizens, they are not intended to violate the free movement of Serbian citizens or provoke whatever destabilization is desired.”
However, the Prime Minister’s statement was not enough to de-escalate the situation.
For 13 consecutive days, barricades were placed in the north and traffic was blocked. The debate between Kosovo and Serbia was moved to Brussels to find a solution acceptable to both sides. It was once agreed to put both sides of stickers on the emblems of the respective states on the license plates.
Tensions behind anti-smuggling actions over the years
In 2019, the Kosovo Police carried out an action that included the north of Kosovo, which resulted in the arrest of 19 police officers and some citizens who obstructed the action.
As the officials of the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office and the Kosovo Police had announced, the police action was aimed at fighting crime and smuggling. During the police action, a police official was injured by gunfire and several others were slightly injured.
In October 2021, the fight against smuggling in several municipalities of Kosovo, including that of North Mitrovica. When the police forces arrived in that part, the local Serbs came out on the streets to oppose the action.
“While in all other regions the police operation went without problems, in North Mitrovica criminal groups gathered in an organized manner, created roadblocks with various means of transport, used gas canisters, stun bombs, gunshots fire and hand grenades, with the aim of obstructing and attacking customs and police officials, who were in the performance of their official duties”, it is stated in the announcement of the Kosovo Police and it is added that the situation in the northern part of Mitrovica has calmed down after the end of the action .
In May of this year, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration, Xhelal Sveçla, said that an action by the Kosovo Police and Kosovo Customs revealed a marijuana cultivation laboratory, in which more than 10,000 plant fibers were found. ready to be sold illegally on the market.
This action, unlike other anti-smuggling actions carried out by the Kosovo Police, surprisingly, was supported by the Serbian List.
During the last few years, several other anti-smuggling actions have been carried out, which have encountered resistance and orchestration by local Serbs, as well as reactions from high-ranking Serbian officials and local Serbian officials in Kosovo. /Express/