For weeks, hand grenades have been used to warn UN and EU officials to back off from Serb areas in Northern Kosovo, their use being not once reported by the BBC. Today however, as soon as one of these weapons (inter alia) was used in anger, injuring twenty members of the security forces, the BBC has suddenly proved that it is, after all able to mention such things. The BBC report also makes it clear that the violence has caused the UN to withdraw now from Serb controlled parts of Mitrovica in Northern Kosovo.
If the UN can withdraw at the moment twenty servicemen are injured, one wonders why a withdrawal could not have been achieved by negotiation beforehand. Indeed, a meeting had been scheduled to take place between the Serbian Minister for Kosovo, and the head of the UN in Kosovo today, with the intention of finding a compromise agreement to end the occupation of the Mitrovica Courthouse by Serbian demonstrators.
It seems that some bright spark from the local Kosovan government (effectively controlled by the EU) was concerned that concessions might be made to the Serbs by the UN in this meeting, and decided to force the issue by storming the courthouse in advance of this meeting taking place. This was confirmed on Al Jazeera which reports that the courthouse storming was a dawn raid by 500 predominantly Ukrainian troops. This left no opportunity for the scheduled negotiations to take place.
If so, that person, presumably Pieter Feith (Pictured) the head of the EU operation in Kosovo, and effective governor of Kosovo, was directly responsible for the wounds inflicted on the UN servicemen and local policemen. Had the situation been settled by negotiation and not by the storming of the courthouse, the Serbs would not have inflicted these casualties. It was blindingly obvious that Serbs would not accept a humiliating outcome to the courthouse occupation. As the meeting to settle the situation was about to happen, storming the courthouse was a stupid decision.
The end result of it is a breach of faith by the EU civilian government to the UN forces which are brokering the peace in Northern Kosovo. According to the BBC, the UN has now withdrawn all its personnel completely out of the Serbian part of Mitrovica. The Serbs have achieved exactly what they desired.
I wrote yesterday that the UN was most likely to be about to beat a tactical retreat in Northern Kosovo in the light of behind the scenes negotiations going on with Russia, and the recent development of a more cooperative relationship between Russia and NATO. It seems unlikely that NATO will want to jeopardise this new thaw in relations with Russia, in which Russia will start assisting NATO in Afghanistan, over Kosovo. As NATO has replaced UN forces at Mitrovica, it seems more likely that a climbdown from the EU/UN position will be orchestrated.
The EU’s commanding the storming of the Mitrovica courthouse was no doubt an attempt to head off any such climbdown by the UN/NATO, and preserve the situation as ordained by EU orthodoxy in Brussels.
It is time the EU came to see the reality of the situation in Kosovo, and open up negotiations with Serbia. If it does not, there can only be yet more incidents of this nature. Maybe next time it will be EU personnel who become the casualties, and not UN forces, who are being asked to front up the necessary casualties to deliver the impossible EU-prescribed programme. Although the EU, seeing the dangers in Kosovo for its staff is keeping safely out of the way for the time being, sending others in to carry the can. How long will it take Brussels to wise up? Knowing Brussels as we do, my guess is unfortunately that it could be quite a while.
UPDATE on CNN – Paris and Berlin are against making any concessions to Serbia, while Moscow asks for talks to be resumed. Belgrade says that the UN used excessive force and that this will only provoke further violence.
Reuters – BRUSSELS, March 17 (Reuters) –
The European Commission called for restraint in northern Kosovo on Monday after NATO troops came under fire during Serb riots in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica.
“We are very concerned about the tense situation in north Mitrovica and we regret attacks against the U.N. police and (the NATO-led force) KFOR. We call for restraint,” a spokesman for the EU executive told a regular news briefing.
“Violence is unacceptable. It’s not an option. All parties should work together to build a multi-ethnic Kosovo based on the rule of law,” he added.
The EU is currently deploying a 2,200-strong mission that will take over U.N. policing functions in Kosovo by mid-June. (Reporting by Mark John)
With the situation as fluid as it is, mid-June might as well be twenty years away. In the short term, the EU have played into Serb hands by over-reacting and abandoning negotiations, allowing it to appear that Serbs are being unreasonably attacked. It would have been better to let the courthouse occupation drag on until it became uninteresting, and then establish court hearings elsewhere if necessary.
For a proper report of how bad the situation and the fighting is , see THIS. It seems the casualty list is far higher than 20 service personnel (The BBC initially reported 5 were injured). Al Jazeera says that at least one UN soldier was shot HERE. Poland alone says that 22 of its soldiers are wounded. It seems likely that people must have been killed in this action, but as yet the news is being suppressed. It will be a miracle if they were not.
On Russia Today it appears that it was French soldiers who were wounded at the courthouse. From New York Times, many French also wounded by grenades thrown by Albanians – HERE, who see the French peace-keepers as taking sides with the Serbs!