Nearly 11 years after the end of the war in Kosovo, Germany and the former Serbian province agreed Wednesday on the return of some 14,000 former refugees.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said after the signing with his Kosovo counterpart Bajram Rexhepi that no "mass deportations" were planned.
But he said Berlin would "pursue its policy of progressive return" of people who fled the fighting in Kosovo.
He also pledged to ensure an "appropriate balance of various ethnicities" so that not only Roma are returned to Kosovo. A maximum of 2,500 people will be repatriated per year.
According to official German figures, about 10,000 of the 14,000 refugees to be returned are Roma versus about 2,400 ethnic Albanians.
The move was sharply criticised by the far-left opposition Linke party, which said many of those who sought safety in Germany would be forced to flee again or "land in miserable circumstances" if returned to Kosovo.
Deputy Ulla Jelpke, who was visiting Kosovo with a German parliamentary delegation, warned of the danger of racist attacks against Roma in Kosovo.
Of the 55,000 Kosovars living in Germany, more than half arrived around 1998 and 1999 during the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic's brutal crackdown on the pro-independence ethnic Albanian majority, according to official figures.
For several years, the German government has pressed the refugees to return.
Since the end of the war in 1999, more than 92,000 Kosovars returned home "voluntarily", while another 22,000 were expelled, according to the interior ministry.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority proclaimed independence in February 2008 and has been recognised as an independent state by 65 countries, including the United States and most European Union members.
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