Wednesday's violent clashes in Kosovo between ethnic Albanians and Serbs have prompted a flurry of calls for calm from EU leaders.
After the northern Kosovar town of Mitrovica erupted with hundreds of ethnic Albanians and Serbs clashing on streets over allegations that Serbs were responsible for the deaths of three Albanian school children, violence quickly spread to other towns in the province. Official reports put the death toll at 18, with hundreds wounded. Eleven French KFOR peacekeepers were hurt in the disturbances, which many say were the worst in years. In the EU, fears are growing that events are now slipping out of control. "The immediate priority is that calm be restored in Kosovo", Irish foreign minister, Brian Cowen said. "There is a heavy responsibility on all to avoid actions which would undermine the work under way to ensure a stable future for a secure, democratic and multiethnic Kosovo with its place in Europe" added Mr Cowen, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency. The EU has been a major aid donor in the region and has continuously stressed that all Balkan countries have the prospect of EU membership. The bloc's foreign policy chief Javier Solana warned the outbreak could jeopardize the region's future: "These criminal acts are completely unacceptable and severely threaten Kosovo's progress towards a better future. The perpetrators must be brought to justice." Kosovo has been an international protectorate since 1999, its final status has not yet been agreed. (EUobserver.com)