New Kosovo PM fears more Serb aggression as car plate crisis put on hold
Kosovo could be attacked by Serbia amid tensions with the Balkan state’s Serb minority, according to the newly appointed prime minister, Albin Kurti.
“We should not exclude that these aggressive policies of Belgrade could also turn into an assault against Kosovo in one way or the other,” Kurti told Reuters. “We are vigilant but not afraid.
“I am not saying they are going to attack us this week or next but it would be totally irresponsible to exclude…the possibility of rising tensions and new conflicts.”
Kosovo, under US and European Union pressure, delayed a requirement for Serbs in the north of the controversial state to apply for Kosovar car plates until September 1, replacing Serbian registrations after protests and gunfire by the embattled minority.
Serbia has a similar rule for its Kosovar community.
Nato troops have removed Serb roadblocks to reduce tensions. The military alliance has around 3,700 troops in Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence in February 2008 but Serbia, with Russian support, has blocked its attempts to join the United Nations. More than 100 countries have recognised Kosovo.
“We are more than 20 years past the end of the war but are still nowhere near a lasting settlement between Serbia and Kosovo,” Jacques Rupnik of Sciences Po in Paris told Time. “Prime Minister Albin Kurti is adamant about restoring sovereignty, not just by declaration but also in fact. This licence plate issue is about state sovereignty… he has no problem getting confrontational.”
Kurti this month delayed the car plates implementation and demands for border documents with Serbia for 30 days on the condition that “all barricades are removed and complete freedom of movement is restored on all roads in the north of Kosovo”.
Northern Kosovo has around 50,000 ethnic Serbs, few of whom recognise the government in Pristina.
Kurti said ethnic-Serb protests have “everything to do with a tendency to destabilise Kosovo and to threaten the peace and security of our citizens and country”. The new prime minister blamed Serbia for committing “multiple aggressive acts”.
Danilo Mandić of Harvard University told the media: “Both Belgrade and Pristina have engaged in a kind of ethno-nationalist baiting, which means they bait the other side to have these mini incidents, which fall short of full-scale violence but are disruptive. The trouble is that they’re playing with fire.”
The European Union has held negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo over the last decade and many observers believe the bloc will need to play a key role if bilateral tensions are to be reduced.
Ethnic Serbs in Kosovo are an obstacle to resolving tensions between Serbia and Kosovo. Picture credit: Wikimedia