Kosovo: five minutes to understand the high tension on the border with Serbia

On Sunday, tensions flared on the border between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovar authorities, as the government in Pristina was about to introduce new border rules against holders of Serbian nationality.

What happened?

Hundreds of Kosovo Serbs crowded trucks, tankers and other heavy vehicles on the roads leading to the Jarinje and Brnjak crossings on Sunday night. A crowd thus settled in front of the barricades to protest against the government’s new border policy which, as of Monday, is to oblige anyone with a Serbian identity card to replace it with a temporary document when entering the Kosovar territory, as well as only. issue temporary Kosovar license plates to all Serbian vehicles arriving in Kosovo.

In these clashes, the Kosovar police said they were fired on four times, without any victims, and reported “bad treatment” suffered by the Kosovar Albanians. Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti condemned the alleged perpetrators of these attacks. “We call on international forces, western democratic capitals, the European Union and NATO to condemn the violence and aggression of criminal gangs in northern Kosovo, which are clearly organized and financed by Belgrade,” he said to the press.

Is the conflict resolved?

In recent hours, the decision was finally taken by the government of Kosovo to postpone the entry into force of the rules for a month. In response, Kosovo Serbs dismantled their border barricades, and protesters removed heavy vehicles blocking access to border crossings. For Loïc Trégourès, doctor of political science and specialist in the Balkans, this scenario is “a repeat of what happened last September and what could happen in 30 days”. In September, two border crossings were blocked within days of Pristina’s decision to ban Serbian license plates.

For the expert, “this so-called increase in tension has a diplomatic purpose”: “It is a way to strengthen its diplomatic positions, which on the one hand Kosovo declares itself fully independent, and the other Serbia, which considers it. position which is completely unacceptable. As it is, it is an intractable conflict. »

Where are the tensions between Kosovo and Serbia coming from?

These new rules that the Kosovar government wants to impose did not come out of nowhere. Since the expiration of a bilateral agreement in 2011, entry into Serbia for Kosovars has been conditional on the withdrawal of the license plate, in favor of a temporary Serbian license plate. Therefore, Pristina justified its new rules in the name of the “principle of reciprocity”.

“The discourse in Kosovo is to say that it is a sovereign state, like Serbia, and that the application of these rules is completely normal, in response to the same rules put in place in Serbia”, explained Loïc Tregoures. However, the problem is deeper. Although the independence of Kosovo was proclaimed on February 17, 2008, during an extraordinary session of the Parliament of the Provisional Institutions of Kosovo and nine years after the end of the war it fought against Serbia, Belgrade still refuses to theirs in its freedom. former Serbian region.

What situation and what obstacles for Kosovo?

This veto by Serbia, as well as by other countries, is an obstacle for Kosovo to join many international organizations, such as UNESCO and Interpol, as the specialist points out: “Since 2008, the Kosovo’s independence is recognized by half of the world’s countries, but some of the other countries strongly oppose it, such as Serbia. »

However, the situation may change in the coming weeks. “Soon the Kosovar authorities will submit a request to the Council of Europe, to obtain protection from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is currently not the case. This is definitely a good thing for all citizens of Kosovo. »

Why is NATO ready to intervene?

After tensions flared on the border between the two countries on Sunday, NATO forces deployed in Kosovo quickly indicated they would “intervene if stability is compromised”. This sudden reaction was the result of an agreement reached shortly after the 1998-1999 military confrontation between the Kosovo Liberation Army and Serbian forces.

Therefore, “the 1999 conflict ended after NATO intervened in the conflict. The Serb forces withdrew and got a guarantee from the organization to ensure the security of the Kosovo Serbs,” explained Loïc Trégourès. “Because of this, NATO is not doing more or less than its job, which is to ensure the security through KFOR, under the mandate of the European Union, of properties, both heritage and religious, but also the security of people”, said the researcher.

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