What we know about renewed border tensions between Kosovo and Serbia

“A Boiling Atmosphere” in the words of the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vuccic. Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo escalated on Sunday at the border between the two countries. Kosovo police said they were set on fire, barricades were erected on roads leading to Serbia and traffic was blocked at two border crossings in northern Kosovo. These clashes come months after intense demonstrations against border policy of the Kosovar government. Following Pristina’s withdrawal, the blockade was lifted on Monday, August 1. How can this recent development be explained? Franceinfo summarizes what we know about the situation.

A “tense” situation in the cities of northern Kosovo

“The security situation in the municipalities of northern Kosovo is tense”NATO mission in Kosovo (Kfor) explained in a press release published Sunday evening. Kosovar police have previously claimed to have opened fire and erected barricades on roads leading to Serbia, in protest against the government’s border policy.

On Sunday night, hundreds of Kosovo Serbs population living in Kosovo but not recognizing the authority of the Kosovo government – there is massed trucks, tankers and other heavy vehicles on the roads leading to the crossings of Jarinje, the city of Leposavic, and Brnjak, two border crossings in the north of the country. A crowd settled around the barricades, with the expressed intention of spending the night there. Siren sounds could also be heard for more than three hours in the northern town of Mitrovica, according to Reuters.

A change in the tension associated with the new rules of entry

At the beginning of these tensions, new rules for entering Kosovo, which will be implemented on Monday, and according to which anyone who enters the country with a Serbian identity card must have a temporary document for their stay. . On this topic, Prime Minister Albin Kurti stated that this is a measure of retaliation in the face of Serbia’s decision to demand the same from the Kosovars who enter its territory.

The Kosovar government has also given Kosovo Serbs two months to replace Serbian license plates on their vehicles with Republic of Kosovo license plates.

The rules of the initiative were posted in Washington

The government of Kosovo finally decided to postpone the entry into force of these new rules on the border with Serbia for a month. They will apply from 1 September.

This postponement was announced after a meeting with the United States Ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Honevier. The decision was accepted by the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, on Twitter, who called for “Quick lifting of all obstacles”.

Protesters then dismantled barricades and removed trucks and other heavy vehicles blocking the way to cross the Serbian border.

A disputed border policy for months

This escalation of tension refers to a border policy of the Kosovar government that has been challenged a few months ago. In September 2021, northern Kosovo was the scene of high tension and daily protests when the government in Pristina first decided to ban Serbian license plates on its territory.

The Kosovar authorities then sent special police forces to enforce the law in question, setting off a firestorm in the region. Traffic was heavily blocked at two border posts as scores of Serbs blocked access roads to Kosovo and set fire to several buildings including a customs post. Faced with these tensions, NATO reacted by strengthening its presence in the region, explains France 24.

Serbia has not recognized Kosovo’s independence since it was declared unilaterally in 2008. Similarly, Kosovo Serbs remain loyal to Belgrade on whom they are financially dependent.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a speech to the country on Sunday that the situation in Kosovo is not “It’s not too complicated” for Serbia and the Serbs who live there. “The atmosphere was brought to a boil”he continued, adding that “Serbia will win” if the Serbs are attacked. For his part, Albin Kurti accused the Serbian president of triggering “trouble”.

NATO is ready to intervene in the region

Faced with this development, the NATO mission responsible for ensuring stability in the region since 1999 said it is ready to intervene if necessary. The alliance noted its strong presence in the area and specified that it was in contact with representatives of the Kosovo authorities and the Serbian defense department.

He also made it clear that he is moving on “fully supporting the normalization process between Pristina and Belgrade” and called “all parties will continue to negotiate”. In 2011, the two countries agreed on a dialogue to try to resolve their obstacles in view of Serbia’s future entry into the European Union, but since then no significant progress has been observed.

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