The spokesman for the European Union's police mission in Kosovo said on Friday it has signed an information-sharing agreement with Serbia's police, despite objections from ethnic Albanians.
Christophe Lamfalussy said the deal will allow the 2,000-strong EULEX mission and Serbian authorities to share information on organized crime.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders initially opposed the deal for fear it would give Serbia a say in the new country's internal affairs. But, after several meetings with Kosovo's Western backers, they agreed the deal does not threaten Kosovo's sovereignty. "In order to bring criminals to justice evidence needs to be shared and exchanged through the region and mechanisms need to be established to facilitate this," Lamfalussy said. "The Kosovo police will be heavily involved in the information exchange." Kosovo officials said the country would maintain its independence from Serbia, of which it was once a part.
"We stress that such arrangements do not and will not have any influence upon Kosovo's independence, sovereignty and the territorial integrity," President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said in a joint statement sent to The Associated Press. EULEX has signed similar agreements with other countries in the region, such as Macedonia and Albania.
However, the deal with Serbia has drawn strong protest from ethnic Albanian authorities and citizens, marking the first friction between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and the EU's police mission.
EULEX deployed in Kosovo last year after an official invitation by Kosovo's authorities. But the mission does not treat Kosovo as an independent state because five of the EU's 27 members refuse to recognize its statehood.
Last month, activists from a group called Self-determination overturned some 24 EULEX vehicles to protest the deal. Twenty activists were arrested and sentenced to one month in prison.