Several weeks ago, the Serbian president has put the country’s army on alert, bringing them closer to the Kosovo-Serb border, as new clashes between Kosovo police and Kosovo’s Serb minority have broken out.
The Serb community, which makes up 5% of Kosovo’s population, boycotted the April elections because they were given no guarantees that they would form their own association, which they say would work on education, health and economic development. Kosovo Albanians, on the other hand, fear that they would create a state within a state. Even the US Secretary of State has condemned police violence. Anthony Blinken called the incident unnecessary and “undermining” good neighbourly relations. Unfortunately, the current situation is in sharp contrast to the bilateral agreement reached in the spring. In March, the leaders of the two countries agreed, among other things, on Kosovo’s membership of international organisations. Non-compliance with this agreement already has negative consequences for the accession of both countries to the EU.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has also called on Kosovo to ease tensions. But how will the developments of the past few days affect the two countries’ status as EU candidates? Unfortunately, the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo has been defined for decades by the unresolved situation of minority rights, non-recognition and a fragile political situation. NATO and the EU are trying to find peaceful solutions to the situation.
The Kosovo Force (KFOR) was established in 1999 under UN Resolution 1244, with nearly 50 000 troops under a single command. Currently a fraction of the current peacekeeping force of 3 500, Hungary is the third largest contributor (around 400), guaranteeing freedom of movement and multi-ethnic peace with several neighbouring countries. However, the European Union is also playing its part in institution-building through EULEX Kosovo, which started in 2008. This is currently the EU’s largest civilian mission, which aims to support the rule of law, institutions and monitor respect for human rights.
Unfortunately, this does not ease the tensions caused by the boycott of the April municipal elections in the Serb-held northern part of Kosovo, which had a turnout of only 3.5%. It is important to note that the Serbian army’s incursion into Kosovo would have unforeseeable consequences in the context of an armed conflict with NATO. While this week, the European Union has summoned the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo for emergency talks to try to bring an end to a series of violent clashes near their border, fearing a return to open conflict, a long-term solution can be found through the proper implementation of the rights of the Kosovo Serbs, the continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and a concrete target date for EU membership. The EU must bring back its credibility for the Western Balkans, especially in such challenging times, since one can say, that the future of the EU, economic prosperity and security of the continent depends on future enlargement which can help create a common European sense of belonging.
Picture source: aljazeera.com