NATO forces stationed in Kosovo announced on Monday that they have stepped up patrols in Kosovo following rising tensions with Serbia. Belgrade sent armored vehicles to the border, near the north of its ancient province, in response to what it called the “provocations” of Pristina, namely the recent deployment of Kosovan special forces near two border towns in the north of the province, Jarinje. and Brnjak. The north of Kosovo has a predominantly Serbian population that rejects the authority of the Pristina government.
Kosovar special units have been dispatched to oversee Pristina’s decision to force Serbian vehicles to affix temporary Kosovan license plates upon entry into its territory. Vehicles registered in the “Republic of Kosovo” – not recognized by Belgrade – have been forced for years to temporarily carry Serbian number plates to enter Serbia and Pristina has asked for a measure of “reciprocity”.
According to NATO, the situation at the border is calm despite the maneuvers in Belgrade, which has also sent military aircraft to fly over the border. The international community, starting with the European Union, has called for “de.escalation” and “dialogue” in the face of the re.explosion of tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, which has never recognized the independence of the territory with a large Albanian majority, proclaimed in 2008.
For days hundreds of Serbs have been blocking the roads leading to the two border crossings in protest. Over the weekend, two Kosovar vehicle registration offices were attacked by demonstrators and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti accused Serbia of wanting to “provoke a conflict”.
Tomorrow, the Balkan mission of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will leave Tirana, which intends to prepare the ground for the EU.Balkans summit on 6 October and will visit both Pristina and Belgrade. “It is important that the parties sit together, put an end to the verbal escalation in the region and find a solution quickly,” said Diana Spinant, spokesperson for the Commission.
Kurti said he was ready for a dialogue with Serbia under the leadership of the EU, which for ten years has been trying to help the two opponents normalize relations. The Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, however, conditions the resumption of the reconciliation process on the withdrawal of the Kosovar special forces from the north of the territory. “We are attached to safeguarding peace” but “we will never allow the humiliation of Serbia and its citizens”, insisted Vucic after a meeting with Western ambassadors.
Analysts argue that the period is not conducive to compromise, as both Kosovo and Serbia face electoral deadlines. An administrative vote is expected in Pristina in October, while political elections will be held in Serbia next year.