Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have escalated after Kosovo’s police raided Serb-dominated areas and seized local municipality buildings. There have been violent clashes between Kosovo’s police and NATO-led peacekeepers on one side and local Serbs on the other, leaving several people injured on both sides. Serbia raised combat readiness of its troops stationed near the border and warned it won’t stand by if Serbs in Kosovo are attacked again. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Serbia has refused to recognize its statehood and still considers it part of Serbia. The latest flare-up was triggered by Serbs boycotting last month’s local elections held in northern Kosovo.
In accordance with the latest findings of a recent article by the Associated Press, tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have once again flared up after Kosovo’s police raided Serb-dominated areas in the region’s north and seized local municipality buildings. This has led to violent clashes between Kosovo’s police and NATO-led peacekeepers on one side and local Serbs on the other, leaving several people injured on both sides.
In response to the situation, Serbia has raised the combat readiness of its troops stationed near the border and warned that it won’t stand by if Serbs in Kosovo are attacked again. This has fueled fears of a renewal of the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo that claimed more than 10,000 lives and left more than 1 million homeless.
So why are Serbia and Kosovo at odds? Kosovo is a mainly ethnic Albanian populated territory that was formerly a province of Serbia. It declared independence in 2008, but Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s statehood and still considers it part of Serbia, even though it has no formal control there. Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by about 100 countries, including the United States. Russia, China, and five European Union nations have sided with Serbia. The deadlock has kept tensions simmering and prevented full stabilization of the Balkan region after the bloody wars in the 1990s.
The latest flare-up in tensions occurred after Serbs boycotted last month’s local elections held in northern Kosovo, where Serbs represent a majority. Newly elected ethnic Albanian mayors moved into their offices with the help of Kosovo’s riot police last Friday, and Serbs tried to prevent them from taking over the premises. The police fired tear gas to disperse them, and on Monday, Serbs staged a protest in front of the municipality buildings, triggering a tense standoff that resulted in fierce clashes between the Serbs and the Kosovo peacekeepers and local police. The election boycott followed a collective resignation by Serb officials from the area, including administrative staff, judges, and police officers, in November 2022.
The dispute over Kosovo is centuries-old, with Serbia cherishing the region as the heart of its statehood and religion. Numerous medieval Serb Orthodox Christian monasteries are in Kosovo, and Serb nationalists view a 1389 battle against Ottoman Turks there as a symbol of its national struggle. On the other hand, Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians view Kosovo as their country and accuse Serbia of occupation and repression. Ethnic Albanian rebels launched a rebellion in 1998, which led to a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999 and eventually to Kosovo’s independence.
The ongoing tensions between Serbia and Kosovo highlight the challenges of post-conflict reconciliation and the difficulty of resolving long-standing ethnic disputes. The situation also underscores the importance of international diplomacy and cooperation in preventing further violence and promoting stability in the Balkan region.