CrisisWatch Kosovo

Deteriorated Situation

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”.

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In The News

15 Feb 2023
There’s just zero trust [between Kosovo and Serbia] and active hostility on both sides. Gzero

Marko Prelec

Consulting Senior Analyst, Balkans

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