Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said on January 16 that he categorically condemns the murder of Oliver Ivanović, a Serb political leader shot dead in Mitrovica earlier the same day.
Ivanović, leader of the Kosovo Serb party called Freedom, Democracy, Justice, died after being shot four times outside his party’s office in Mitrovica.
Borissov said that all violence was at odds with the civilised values and European choice of the Western Balkans.
“I expect the political elites and all citizens to exercise maturity and restraint,” said the Bulgarian Prime Minister, whose country has made the Western Balkans a top policy priority during its EU Presidency, being held in the first half of 2018.
Borissov said that the rule of law could not be called into question and said that he believed that those guilty of the crime would be held responsible.
“I am convinced that there is no alternative to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and such acts should not be allowed to hinder it,” Borissov said.
Soon after news of the shooting, a Serbian government delegation left scheduled EU-mediated talks in Brussels with Kosovo Albanians. In Belgrade, Serbia’s government held a special security meeting.
The suspension of the talks in Brussels was confirmed by the head of the delegation of technical talks between Kosovo and Serbia, Avni Arifi, the Independent Balkan News Agency reported.
“It’s true that the Serb delegation has suspended the meeting that was supposed to start at 10 due to the murder of Oliver Ivanović. We don’t know if the talks will resume in the evening,” Arifi said.
In a subsequent statement on January 16, Borissov’s office said that he had spoken by phone with his Serbian counterpart, Ana Brnabić, reiterating to her the messages in his initial comment.
Brnabić had informed Borissov about the measures that Serbia was taking after the incident, the Bulgarian government press service said.
Borissov expressed his condolences to Ivanović’s relatives, friends and supporters, and wished success in solving the murder, the statement said.
A January 16 statement by the European External Action Service (EEAS) said that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had spoken by phone to presidents Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo following the killing of Ivanović.
In the calls, Mogherini strongly condemned the murder and expressed condolences to his family and friends.
She underlined the expectation that the relevant Kosovo Rule of Law authorities spare no effort to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice without delay. The European Union’s Rule of Law mission, EULEX, will support the authorities in accordance with its mandate, the statement said.
Mogherini called on all sides to show calm and restraint and allow the rule of law and justice to take its course, the EEAS statement said.
In Priština, US ambassador Greg Delawie said that he condemned in the strongest manner the violent killing.
“I call on all Kosovo’s justice institutions – especially now that police, prosecutors, and courts are integrated – to investigate this incident swiftly and professionally, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Delawie said.
“We urge all sides to avoid dangerous rhetoric and remain calm at this sensitive time, and recommit themselves to continue the work toward the normalization of relations and improvement of the lives of the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia,” the US ambassador said.