In late May, violent protests broke out in Kosovo’s four northernmost municipalities, where Serbs form the majority. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Marko Prelec explains what caused the unrest and what should be done to defuse tensions.
Tensions continued to spiral in Serb-majority northern municipalities as European Union (EU) and U.S. ratcheted up pressure on Pristina and Belgrade to defuse situation.
Situation deteriorated further in northern Kosovo. Following protests late May in four northern Serb-majority municipalities, which broke out after authorities seized municipal buildings and installed newly elected ethnic Albanian mayors, protests and violent clashes continued. Notably, Kosovo Serbs 13 June targeted police with stones following arrest of an individual accused of organising attack on NATO forces 29 May. Month also saw increase in explosions and other attacks, primarily targeting govt institutions: notably, two bombs 19 June exploded near police station in Zvečan town. Meanwhile, PM Kurti 14 June announced Serbian armed forces had detained three Kosovo police officers, fuelling tensions further, though Serbia 26 June released them. EU High Representative Josep Borrell 23 June expressed alarm at reports of extrajudicial arrests of Kosovo Serbs and subsequent “heavy rhetoric from Serbia”, warning escalation is “becoming dangerous”.
Month saw flurry of EU and U.S. diplomatic activity aimed at defusing tensions. International actors urged de-escalation between Kosovo and Serbia, with particular pressure exerted on Pristina to suspend police operations in north and have mayors temporarily perform duties “in premises out of the municipal buildings”. EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák and U.S. Special Envoy Gabriel Escobar 5 June also reiterated calls for fresh polls to elect new mayors in northern municipalities during talks with Kurti, who 12 June sent Borrell five-point plan to calm tensions. Borrell 14 June warned Kurti’s plan had failed to address “key elements that triggered the current crisis”, 22 June hosted series of crisis management meetings with Serb President Aleksandar Vučić and Kurti, without immediate breakthrough. EU 28 June warned Kosovo it is preparing number of punitive measures, which are “temporary and reversible” if sufficient steps are taken to de-escalate situation; Kurti 29 June announced willingness to “decrease Kosova Police presence” and “organise early elections”.
There’s just zero trust [between Kosovo and Serbia] and active hostility on both sides.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker speaks with Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s consulting senior Western Balkans analyst, about the latest flare-up of tensions in northern Kosovo, what it means for the prospect of normalisation between Belgrade and Pristina and the potential for further escalation.
Kosovo-Serbia relations have floundered in recent months, reflecting underlying tensions over Kosovo’s northern municipalities. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Spring Update, Crisis Group encourages the EU to mediate and promote normalisation of relations between the two countries.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Crisis Group expert Marko Prelec about the precarious situation in the Western Balkans, as Serb separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the frozen Kosovo-Serbia dispute continue to stoke regional instability.
This week on War & Peace, Crisis Group’s Balkan expert Marko Prelec joins Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope to discuss why the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue has stalled, why the status quo is untenable and how to change it.
Online Event to discuss Crisis Group's report "Relaunching the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue", in which we discussed what currently stands in the way of a new status quo and what it will take to relaunch the process with the Pristina elections in view.
Thirteen years after Kosovo broke away from Serbia, the two countries remain mired in mutual non-recognition, with deleterious effects on both. The parties need to move past technicalities to tackle the main issues at stake: Pristina’s independence and Belgrade’s influence over Kosovo’s Serbian minority.
While Kosovo and Serbia have been at peace since 1999, the unresolved dispute over the former’s independence is a potential source of instability in the western Balkans. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to determine whether there is possibility to expressly focus on achieving a final agreement based on mutual recognition, help establish communication channels between the parties, and highlight that both Begrade and Pristina should address pervasive misinformation about the dispute, and communicate with their respective peoples in a more concerted way.
Political instability keeps growing in the Western Balkans amid geopolitical contests and increased tensions with Russia. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to engage intensively to ensure the political space for avoiding more serious crisis does nto entirely vanish in the Western Balkans.
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