March 22, 2023

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What we know about the renewed tensions on the border between Kosovo and Serbia

“The Boiling Atmosphere” In the words of the Serbian President, Alexander Vucic. Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo escalated on Sunday, July 31, along the border between the two countries. Kosovo police say they were shot dead, roadblocks were set up on roads leading to Serbia and traffic was blocked at two border crossings in northern Kosovo. The clashes come months after weeks of violent protests. To challenge the border policy of the Kosovar government. How to explain this recent increase? Franceinfo summarizes what we know about the situation.

A “tense” situation in northern Kosovo cities

“Security situation tense in northern Kosovo municipalities”NATO mission in Kosovo explained (Kfor) In a press release issued on Sunday evening. Kosovo police said the fire broke out in the country’s north on Sunday as roadblocks were set up on roads leading to Serbia against the government’s border policy. Police said no one was injured in the shooting.

Both intersections were closed to traffic. Sunday evening, hundreds of Kosovo Serbs The people living in Kosovo do not recognize the authority of the Kosovo government Scores of trucks, tankers and other heavy vehicles line the roads leading to Jarinje in the town of Lebošavic and Branjak, two border posts in the north of the country. A crowd then settled around the barricades, intending to spend the night there. Sirens could also be heard for more than three hours In the city of MitrovicaIn the north of the country, according to Reuters.

Resurgence of tensions linked to new entry rules

At the origin of these tensions: new rules for entering Kosovo, which were to take effect on Monday, require anyone entering the country with a Serbian ID card to hold a temporary document during their stay. In this regard, Prime Minister Albin Kurdi noted that this was a reciprocal move in the face of Serbia’s decision to demand the entry of the Kosovars into its territory.

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The Kosovo government gave Kosovo Serbs two months to replace their vehicles’ Serbian license plates with Republic of Kosovo plates.

The provisions were postponed through Washington’s efforts

That same evening, the Kosovo government finally decided to postpone for a month the entry into force of these new rules on the border with Serbia. They will finally be applied from September 1.

The postponement was announced after a meeting with the US Ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Honevier. The decision was welcomed by EU diplomatic chief Joseph Borrell on Twitter. “Immediate removal of all roadblocks”.

The border policy has been controversial for months

The recent escalation of tension refers to the border policy of the Kosovar government, which was already challenged a few months ago. In September 2021, northern Kosovo was the scene of high tensions and daily demonstrations when the government in the country’s capital, Pristina, decided to ban Serbian license plates on its territory for the first time.

Kosovo authorities then deployed special police forces to enforce the law and set fire to the region. Traffic was particularly blocked at two border posts, when many Serbs blocked access roads to Kosovo and set fire to several buildings, including a customs post. NATO reacted to these tensions By increasing its presence in the regionFrance 24 explained.

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Serbia has never recognized Kosovo’s independence since it was unilaterally declared in 2008. Likewise, Kosovo Serbs are financially dependent on Belgrade.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said in a speech to the nation on Sunday that the situation in Kosovo was not there. “It’s Never Been So Complicated” For Serbia and the Serbs living there. “The atmosphere was brought to a boil”He continued “Serbia will win” If the Serbs were attacked. For his part, Albin accused Kurdi of inciting the Serbian president “Problems”.

NATO is ready to intervene in the region

In the face of this escalation, the NATO mission, which has been in charge of stabilizing the region since 1999, said in a press release on Sunday evening that it was ready to intervene if necessary. The coalition recalled its strong presence at the site and noted that it was in contact with Kosovo officials and representatives of the Serbian Ministry of Defense.

She clarified that she continued with it nonetheless “Fully support the normalization process between Pristina and Belgrade” and called “All parties must continue negotiations”. In 2011, the two countries engaged in talks to resolve their impasse over Serbia’s future accession to the EU, but little progress has been made since then.