Public support for some new agreement is low, whether that’s in Serbia or Kosovo. However, the alternative to this would prove ruinous for both Serbs and Albanians
Disturbing news about incidents with overtones of ethnicallymotivated violence against members of the Serbian community has long been coming from Kosovo. The number of incidents increased sharply with the arrival of Albin Kurti at the helm of the Government of Kosovo, with his administration making series of unilateral moves that violated the institutional mechanisms for the peaceful integration of Serbs in municipalities in the north of Kosovo that proved difficult to create in the first place. Moreover, the nationalist narratives of political leaders from Priština, but also from Belgrade, that are accompanied by sensationalist and provocative headlines in tabloids and obscure media outlets, only serve to further contribute to inter-ethnic intolerance in mixed communities across Kosovo.
Also challenging the preservation of peace is the construction of fortifications and the fortifying of the existing facilities of the special police forces of Kosovo in the Serb-dominated areas of northern municipalities. The presence of these forces contravenes the provisions of the Brussels Agreement, because their arrival was not approved by the mayors of the northern municipalities. Additionally, we have repeatedly heard public remarks about the arrogant conduct of members of the special forces towards the local population, which caused further unrest among citizens.
The most recent crisis in Kosovo once again showed unequivocally that there is no military or force-based solution to the security and political challenges, but rather a solution must be found at the negotiating table
The situation has been further complicated by the withdrawal from Kosovo’s institutions of Serbs based in the north – primarily from local governments, the police and the judiciary, which created security and institutional issues. Not long after abandoning these institutions, the local population blocked the main roads in the north of Kosovo, which has brought the situation to the brink of conflict. In response to these events, combat readiness has been raised in Serbia, and the atmosphere has been aggravated further by inappropriate media reports and heightened rhetoric from officials in both Belgrade and Priština. It seemed at one point that a conflict between local Serbs and special police forces was inevitable, and that it was only a matter of time until the Serbian army entered Kosovo.
Regardless of the dramatic situation in the north of Kosovo, security is ensured by the presence and activities of KFOR and EULEX, which have played a significant role in easing tensions at critical junctures. It is also important to note the zero tolerance of Western diplomacy towards any form of violence against members of international forces. Under such circumstances, the possibility of major conflicts erupting is reduced to a minimum, though the potential of conflict arising from various forms of provocation between special police forces and the local population have not been fully avoided.
The most recent crisis in Kosovo once again showed unequivocally that there is no military or force-based solution to the security and political challenges, but rather a solution must be found at the negotiating table. We are witnessing a significant degree of involvement among high-level diplomats of the most important countries of the West, who are trying to help officials in Belgrade and Priština find a solution to the historical problem between Serbia and Kosovo. Their efforts continue to be met with resistance against the reaching of agreement, primarily on the part of Albin Kurti, who built his political career on opposing any agreement with Serbia, but also among many political structures in Belgrade. Public support for some new agreement is low, whether that’s in Serbia or Kosovo. However, Western diplomats conveyed a clear message during their recent visits to Priština and Belgrade: that an agreement on the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo must be signed. The alternative would be ruinous for both Serbs and Albanians. Upcoming events will show the degree of maturity and seriousness of the political elites in Belgrade and Priština to respond to the challenges in resolving this issue, which will determine whether the Serbian and Albanian people will move in the direction of a promising future or mutual conflicts.