Thursday, December 15, 2022

Another War Looming?

 North Kosovo, the area north of the Ibar River, has a population almost exclusively ethnic Serb, holding allegiance to Serbia. Most do not recognize that Kosovo is a state. However, they have 10 guaranteed seats in Kosovo's parliament and two minister seats in the government in Pristina.

Since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999, the Kosovar government has never had full control in the north of the country — this means that the area, which has a population of about 60,000, is effectively a lawless zone.

The Serbs of Kosovo distrust the government in Pristina leading to special police units being regularly sent into the northern area, allegedly to fight crime.

Once again, Serbs in North Kosovo are on the barricades, blocking roads and border crossings. They are protesting against the arrest of a former police officer suspected of terrorism for a bomb attack on the premises of the election commission.

The Serbs want to prevent local elections that became necessary in the north after all ethnic Serbs resigned from Kosovo's state institutions in early November. They withdrew from both parliament and government and all four mayors in North Kosovo resigned. Several hundred Serb police officers left the Kosovo police force, and Serb judges stopped going to work.

This boycott was a reaction to Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti's plan to bring in new vehicle license plate regulations. The aim was to ban plates issued by the Serbian authorities and to swap them for Kosovo plates. As far as Kurti was concerned, it was a matter of principle because Serbia does not accept Kosovo license plates but for Serbian President Vucic and the Kosovo Serbs, it was preparation for "ethnic cleansing." The introduction of new license plates has been put on hold.

 Serbia's President Vucic has put troops on "heightened readiness" and ordered them almost to the border with Kosovo. Serbia seeks for its security forces to be stationed on the territory of Kosovo under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 adopted in 1999. It allows for a few hundred law enforcement officers to be sent to Kosovo — but only if the KFOR international peacekeeping mission agrees.

There has been concern that Russia could use its close ties with Serbia to open a "second front" in the Balkans. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has suggested that Serbia, like Russia, also dreams of restoring a "Serbian world" in the region. While Serbian President Vucic has said that Kurti is comporting himself like a "little Zelenskiyy."

Serbia has not joined the sanctions against Russia. According to polls, over 80% of Serbs reject imposing these on a "brother state." Serbia is not only dependent on Russian gas, but also on Russian support in the Kosovo issue. Yet much of the Serbian economy is oriented toward the West. German companies in Serbia provide about 75,000 jobs.

What are the tensions in North Kosovo all about? – DW – 12/14/2022

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