Sarrazin: EU demands that Kosovo Special Forces no longer be present in the north, Serbs are literally suffering there

Manuel Zaracin
Source: Reporteri

Germany's Special Envoy for the Western Balkans, Manuel Sarrazin, stated that the decision of the Kosovo Government to reduce the presence of police in and around municipal buildings by 25% was only a small first step towards de-escalation, and that, however, it did not meet the EU's demand that special police forces no longer be present in the north. In an interview with RTS, he also noted that the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities was crucial for the international community and pointed out that Serbs in the north were "literally suffering" due to the crisis.

The Kosovo Government has agreed to reduce the police presence near municipal buildings in northern Kosovo and organize elections after the summer. However, Serbs are demanding the withdrawal of Kosovo Special Forces from the north. Is that possible?

I have to say that the announcement by the Kosovo Government is a first step, and it is a positive first step, but it is only a small first step, and it is not enough. The EU has presented a clear three-point plan that implies the absence of special police forces in the north and near municipal buildings, and the 25% reduction is a step towards that, but it obviously does not fulfill the Union's requirements.

The EU has imposed measures against Pristina, suspended meetings with European officials, and economic assistance. It is evident that the EU has a way to compel Pristina to take action. Is there a mechanism to make them fulfill what was agreed upon ten years ago?

The best way to do this is de-escalation from both sides. I know it may sound funny when Western diplomats come and say that both sides need to exercise restraint, but here we have an example of how both sides can contribute positively. We need confirmation of the clear will of the Serbian side to implement the Ohrid Agreement and for Pristina to do what we call on them to do, which is to move mayors to other facilities from municipal buildings and remove police forces, as well as hold elections for four mayors with the participation of the Serb List, of course.

If, hypothetically, de-escalation occurs, is it time to work on the Ohrid Agreement?

We must work on the Ohrid Agreement. The current situation, regardless of who is more or less responsible and regardless of the perspective in Serbia and Kosovo, has a negative impact on the European perspective of the entire region. The agreement is not perfect, as nothing in the world usually is, but it is a great opportunity to resolve the deadlock in relations. Serbia must change its rhetoric regarding the Ohrid Agreement and fully implement it. On the other hand, we need commitment from the Kosovo side. For us, the international community, the Community of Serb Municipalities is crucial.

Yes, but nobody is talking about the CSM these days.

We discuss it every day with our Kosovo partners. We need to calm tensions down; we have a dangerous situation. I must admit that I am often in Mitrovica, also in North Mitrovica, talking to many Serbs. People are literally suffering because of this situation. The situation must calm down so that people can have a normal life without daily emergencies, without the fear that something can happen at any minute. That is a precondition for returning to the table, starting the dialogue, and establishing the Community of Serb Municipalities.

You mentioned that Berlin's position is that Serbia cannot become an EU member without recognizing Kosovo. Can you explain why that is necessary? Why are we negotiating if we ultimately have to say that Kosovo is independent?

Berlin's position on this has not changed, but I won't repeat it anymore because, at this moment, we need to focus on the next steps for de-escalation and returning to the implementation of the agreements.

Is that your personal position or the position of the government you represent here in the Western Balkans?

I believe I have just reiterated the Chancellor's words.

You said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine made EU enlargement a geopolitical imperative and that the Union would not be complete without Western Balkan countries. How did we go from talking about meeting criteria to talking about geopolitics?

It is always both. In the region where we are, we are currently afraid that geopolitics has returned, but the process within the European Union is still technical, and the EU has realized that enlargement is a geopolitical gain, perhaps the most powerful geopolitical instrument the EU has. On the other hand, we also need to protect the functioning of the European Union as an internal market.

You said that the economies of Serbia and Germany are fantastically compatible. But there are always political disagreements. Can we overcome them somehow?

I would say that we have sincere political disagreements, for example, regarding Russia. Also, I think the communication of President Vucic regarding the Ohrid Agreement was not good. It undermined trust in his work both in Kosovo and among a significant part of the German public. However, on the other hand, we have good relations. I just heard in your program in the news about the bombing of the library on April 6, 1941. Germans are grateful to be friends with the Serbian people today. Our bilateral relations are good despite a difficult past. So, you see us as a friend with disagreements on really important issues, and we hope to overcome them on the path to the European Union.