What’s behind the renewed tensions between Serbia and Kosovo? | Explainer Information


Pressure has flared between Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs and the federal government in Pristina – a worrying growth 14 years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.

Ethnic Serb protesters blocked entry roads to 2 border crossings with Serbia in northern Kosovo on Sunday, July 31, and unknown gunmen fired on police, although no accidents have been reported. Vans, tankers and different heavy transport automobiles have been parked on roads blocking the Jarinje and Brnjak border crossings.

The violence erupted over plans by the federal government in Pristina to require folks coming into Kosovo with Serbian IDs to interchange them with a short lived doc throughout their keep within the nation, and a plan for Serbian drivers to show Kosovo quantity plates on their automobiles.

Roughly 50,000 ethnic Serbs dwelling in northern Kosovo use licence plates and identification playing cards issued by Serbian authorities.

Kosovo proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008 however ethnic Serbs who make up the bulk within the northern area of the nation don’t recognise Pristina’s authority. They continue to be politically loyal to Serbia which nonetheless offers monetary help.

Nobody was injured within the newest outbreak of violence, and Kosovo police mentioned the elimination of the barricades erected on the border within the north of the nation has allowed the 2 border crossings with Serbia to reopen.

Nevertheless, the renewed ethnic rigidity has revived longstanding fault traces between Serbia and Kosovo and renewed fears of additional battle in Europe.

What’s behind the newest violence?

The federal government of Kosovo insists on the equal therapy of Kosovar and Serbian residents.

Beneath the brand new rules proposed by Pristina, all ethnic Serbian residents should fill out provisional identification card paperwork reasonably than use their Serbian IDs whereas in Kosovo. As well as, automobiles with Serbian licence plates should affix provisional Kosovar licence plates upon entry.

The prime minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, defined the brand new guidelines as countermeasures to neighbouring Serbia, which has not recognised Kosovan identification paperwork for a number of years. Upon entry to Serbia, Kosovan residents obtain a doc much like the one which Kosovo now desires to introduce for travellers with Serbian identification paperwork.

Gëzim Krasniqi, lecturer in nationalism and political sociology on the College of Edinburgh, says Pristina’s plan is identical follow that Serbia has used with Kosovo doc holders since 2011 as a part of a European Union-mediated settlement on facilitating border crossing between the 2 international locations.

“Serbian authorities have opposed the settlement and on the identical time urged native Serbs to withstand these measures,” Krasniqi informed Al Jazeera.

Related tensions arose in September 2021, when Kosovo Serbs additionally blocked border crossings with vans over plans to implement the licence plate rules for Serbian automobiles in Kosovo.

“Kosovo’s determination to start out making use of stickers on Serbian automotive plates in October 2021 sparked the same blockade of the Kosovo-Serbia border. Following EU intervention, the 2 events agreed to fulfill in Brussels to discover a resolution. But, no resolution has been reached to this date,” Krasniqi mentioned.

“The present tensions over private IDs and automotive plates are half of a bigger drawback with the Serbian authorities refusing to honour earlier agreements reached in Brussels in addition to resisting any try to ascertain authorized and symbolic symmetry between Kosovo and Serbia,” he mentioned.

Has the stress ended?

Barricades have been eliminated and rigidity has abated on the border for now following the Kosovo authorities saying a postponement of the brand new identification doc and automotive registration plate necessities.

Nevertheless, Pristina has accused neighbouring Serbia of instigating the protests as a way to destabilise the nation that declared independence in 2008 after a NATO intervention that stopped Serbia’s bloody crackdown in opposition to ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

Neither Belgrade nor its ally Moscow recognise Western-aligned Kosovo as an unbiased state and have blocked its efforts to affix the United Nations.

Kosovo, which is recognised as a nation by greater than 100 international locations, has additionally sought to affix NATO.

The EU has been attempting to mediate between Belgrade and Pristina since 2013.

Although Kosovo and Serbia have signed quite a few agreements on border crossings and automotive plates in 2011, 2013, and 2016, little progress has been made, Krasniqi famous.

What position does Serbia play?

The present disaster is a part of an extended and far deeper battle between Serbia and Kosovo.

Kosovo performs a necessary position within the founding narrative of the Serbian nation.

It was a part of Serbia till an armed rebellion by its ethnic Albanian majority in 1998 and 1999 was bloodily crushed by Belgrade. Solely a NATO operation to drive Serbian troops out of Kosovo ended the conflict.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia nonetheless has not recognised to at the present time.

“Serbia doesn’t see Kosovo as an unbiased state, and subsequently it has been ready for any form of … [opportunity] … from Kosovo to react in opposition to it. And admittedly, Kosovo has comparatively much less worldwide help on this challenge in contrast to Ukraine,” Ahmet Erdi Ozturk, affiliate professor in politics and worldwide relations at London Metropolitan College, informed Al Jazeera.

The federal government in Belgrade has been utilizing the newest tensions as political capital.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has consolidated his energy in Serbia with little respect for the rule of regulation and democratic norms, and maintains shut ties with Russia whereas additionally benefitting from the EU’s monetary help as a part of Serbia’s European integration path.

He has additionally managed to withstand pressures to make any significant concessions on Kosovo, Krasniqi mentioned.

“Vucic is the principle orchestrator of the current tensions in Kosovo. It’s a well-established follow of his regime and its tightly managed media to instigate worry amongst Kosovo Serbs and Serb folks extra broadly of an allegedly imminent risk coming from Kosovo with the backing of nations such because the US and the EU,” he mentioned.

“Sadly, these ways have been tolerated by the EU and different related worldwide actors within the area for a very long time. Solely now, with the Ukrainian conflict and the looming risk of a spillover impact within the Western Balkans, Western politicians and commentators are paying nearer consideration to Vucic’s regime and the risk it poses to the peace and stability within the area.”

Can the EU ease the stress?

The EU has pushed for a disaster assembly between either side.

Whether or not or not the EU will ever have the ability to play a major position in easing the stress stays open for debate.

“The EU doesn’t appear to have a transparent imaginative and prescient a couple of lasting resolution,” Krasniqi mentioned.

“This additionally outcomes from its lack of ability to formulate a unified place on Kosovo’s statehood and independence. Sadly, the 5 [EU] international locations that don’t recognise Kosovo (Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus) have imposed their stance because the EU’s stance and thus successfully undermined the truth that greater than two-thirds of EU members recognise Kosovo,” he mentioned.

What makes the state of affairs much more unstable are two colliding agendas in Belgrade and Pristina that haven’t modified since independence was declared in 2008.

Kosovo is attempting to strengthen its statehood, and Serbia is consistently attempting to undermine that statehood; Serbian President Vucic caters to nationalist sentiments at residence and Kosovo’s Kurti should make sure the sovereignty of Kosovo.

“It has turn out to be clearer than ever {that a} lasting resolution is just not attainable with out addressing the standing challenge, specifically mutual recognition,” Krasniqi mentioned.

“The longer the dispute lasts, the larger the potential for battle and unrest within the area,” he mentioned.

Ozturk, of London Metropolitan College, had the same conclusion.

“From a practical perspective, there isn’t a resolution on this stage …. and we will see new tensions sooner or later.”

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