by William Nattrass
Wednesday, 28
December 2022
Explainer
11:00

Serbia troops on high alert as Kosovo tensions rise

Road blockades are raising the prospect of renewed conflict
by William Nattrass
Serbian protesters in Mitrovica, Kosovo. Credit: Getty

War is far from over this Christmas. While fighting continues to ravage Ukraine, road blockades erected by Serbs in north Kosovo are raising the prospect of new conflict stemming from an old and never resolved dispute.  

Serbia’s strongman President Aleksandar Vučić, who served as the country’s Minister of Information during the Kosovo War in the late 90s, put the Serbian armed forces on their highest alert level on Tuesday. Before Christmas, he requested permission from NATO peacekeepers for Serbian forces to enter Kosovo to protect the Kosovo Serb population from alleged aggression; unsurprisingly, the request was not granted. 


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New tensions began with a row over vehicle registration and travel documents for Serbs in Kosovo this summer. The situation was temporarily defused but never fully resolved, and in early November Kosovo Serb representatives announced their withdrawal from local institutions. The current road blockades are being portrayed as a popular revolt against the arrest of an ethnic Serb former police officer, but many, including the Kosovo authorities, believe they are the work of paramilitary groups with links to the Serbian state.  

Worryingly, there is a growing tendency for both sides to view NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) as not up to the job of keeping the peace. Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti said national forces would be called upon to remove the blockades if KFOR doesn’t act, raising the possibility of direct conflict between local Serbs and Kosovan officers. But a delicate balancing act is required in NATO operations. A heavy-handed response would be seen as confirmation of the status quo breaking down, giving those hostile to peace more reason to cause trouble. 

Yet the status quo does not, in any case, appear capable of holding tensions in check. Serbia claims the provisions of negotiated agreements with Kosovo are not being adhered to, pointing out Pristina’s failure to establish a so-called Association of Serb Municipalities, which would grant a degree of autonomy to Serb-majority areas.  

The creation of this association was agreed in 2013 but later deemed by Kosovo to violate its constitution. Western opinion on the issue is now split; the U.S. envoy to the Western Balkans is urging Kosovo to set up the association, but some analysts argue that doing so would only give power to the Serb groups responsible for the road blockades — groups described as “criminal and connected to the Serbian secret services.” 

Meanwhile, Kosovan authorities point out the inherent difficulties of negotiating with Serbia. Serbian President Vučić has an unhelpful habit of appearing to be constructive in negotiations mediated by the West, before presenting the outcome to domestic audiences in tones of bitter, undying resentment. Such an attitude has led Kurti to warn the West that “generosity towards Belgrade is not worth it.” 

There are many questions in this powder keg of a region to which the West does not have answers. The cultural and religious significance of Kosovo, for example, has been underlined by the central position of the Serbian Orthodox Church in current arguments, with Kosovo blocking entry for its Patriarch this Christmas. And from Kosovo’s storied past to failed diplomatic settlements of the present, new tensions show that old problems have never gone away.

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago

The rest of the world should observe closely but be very circumspect about getting directly involved.
The problem with the Balkans is that they produce entirely too much history for their own domestic consumption.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

That’s an elegantly incisive last sentence!

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree – though I cannot, in all honesty, lay claim to it.
I should have put in quotes as it was a rather wonderful line written by HH Munro, the now sadly overlooked “Saki”.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

”The problem with the Balkans is that they produce entirely too much history for their own domestic consumption.”

Since the time of the Romans onward, actually back to well BC and the Persians and Darius…Bronze age even….

Surely this is calling to Biden, a siren song to a Neo-Con, the opportunity for military involvement and spending and political favors and voter distraction…. hopefully Sunak can resist the call….

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

But there can’t be another war in Europe. The Remainers said the EU ended all wars there.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Neither country is in the EU. Aren’t you Brexiteers tired of winning yet?

Last edited 1 month ago by Dominic A
Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic A

And once again a Remainer elides the EU with Europe. They aren’t the same thing. One is a continent of nations, with all their rich cultural differences. The other is a bureaucratic trade organisation with imperial pretensions that would wish to see all those divergent nations subsumed into a single pan-European state.
The EU always claimed to have ended war in Europe – though the peoples of the former Yugoslavia (and, since, elsewhere) might have a word or two to say about that.

Last edited 1 month ago by Paddy Taylor
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Bingo!

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Not only subsumed into a single pan-European state, But – ethnically, culturally, and socially cleansed of the ‘Four Olds’ (as under Mao): old ideas, old customs, old culture, and old habits of mind – and with a 5th, old ethnicity.

It is social engineering of the most radical kind, a Davos kind led by Satan’s little helper Yuval Harari, which he named ‘Homo Deus‘, tomorrow’s man, a creature right from Revelations 13:16….

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Ah, so sorry – I just assumed that nobody, pro or agin the EU, would ever claim that it had ended all wars for all time – especially outside it’s jurisdiction. That would be a very odd thing, fantastically stupid, to believe. Btw – has anyone made such a claim, let alone ‘The EU’ or ‘remainers’?

Anyhow, your lecture about eliding the EU with the continent is a bit rich given the comment I was responding to, which elided an opinion (which was perhaps never even said by any EU politician), with the whole of ‘the EU’, and thence onto all Brexiters. Brexit won, and as we are slowly finding out, we are all slowly losing – I wonder if that is related to why some Brexiters keep trying to justify their vote.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic A

(deleted as posted twice)

Last edited 1 month ago by Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I presume you have access to the internet?
Google can be your friend here.
“The EU is the biggest peacemaking institution ever created in human history,” said Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European council, 
“The European Union is the Most Successful Peace Project in History” – Jean Claude Juncker
“Recent generations are the lucky ones, having known 70 years of peace and stability. We owe this in large measure to the EU, originally set up to bind one-time enemies together. It has been, and remains, a force for peace and stability in Europe” – Guy Verhofstadt
“A Union guaranteeing peace in Europe” – Martin Schulz
The EU needs to return to its roots | Mary Kaldor | The Guardian : From the beginning, the EU was a peace project. It was designed, initially, after Europe’s great civil war, to prevent another war on European soil and later to overcome the cold war divide. Indeed, a huge achievement of recent years has been the peaceful integration of the new eastern members.
The EU’s part in 70 years of peace in Europe | Letters | The Guardian
It was always lost on Brexiteers – but the EU is fundamentally about peace | Rafael Behr | The Guardian
The EU and the causes of peace in our time | European Union | The Guardian

Snapper AG
Snapper AG
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

It’s amazing that they could misspell NATO that many times.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

None of this says, or implies, anywhere, the original claim I contested – that the EU said it had ended all war – presumably because that is a stupid claim, which Ian Stewart made and you supported.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Ended all war – who said that?
Ian stewart wrote: But there can’t be another war in Europe. The Remainers said the EU ended all wars there.
There. … In Europe...
is it clearer now?

on a separate note, every time I’ve glanced at this page, you have been down-voted and other posters upvoted. then I look back again and you seem to be in positive numbers, up from minus 7 or something, and posters with 8 or 9 votes seem to be at 1 or 2.
How many sock puppet accounts are you managing?

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

OK I’ll edit my comment for clarification – “None of this says, or implies, anywhere, the original claim I contested – that the EU said it had ended all war in Europe“. I didn’t realise it was necessary to keep adding that clause, given that the subject matter was about ‘war in Europe’ – so sorry for the confusion. Thank you though for the plethora of comments pointing out the widepsread view that the Union has helped achieve peace in Europe. Again, none said that it had done so for all time – that would be a weird and stupid thing to claim…but Ian Stewart claimed it nonetheless as part of a strawan argument.

Why were you so upset at my challenge of this obviously cheap shot – “But there can’t be another war in Europe. The Remainers said the EU ended all wars there.”? Just let it be. Brexit has happened, you won. However, it is not delivering: the predicted problems are manifesting, the predicted benefits not – and the polling figures have gone back firmly to where they have been for pretty much the whole time – in support of staying. As a loser Remainer I am infuriated by Brexiters taking any excuse to keep knocking the EU, and moaning about remainers – years after they’ve won – all rather odd. It increasingly looks like some people are trying to defend [themselves] from these clear & muliple signs of failure and inverted snobbery. They cannot possible have made a mistake, oh no. That’s the exclusive territory of remainers/labour/impure Tories/immigrants/Soros/trans people/atheists/Islington metropolitans(how very ’90s… showing thier age perhaps?), and of course, last but not least the Great Twin Satans – ‘The Elite’ and ‘The MSM’. This is why I’ll shortly be leaving Unherd for the FT – whilst the articles are generally good, they rotatate around the same few subjects ad nauseam; and for reasons not clear to me the commentariat is increasingly made up of reactionary Blimps and concrete thinkers playing splitting games – though not you Paddy, I’ve enjoyed your comments, intelligent and interesting…except this thread.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dominic A
Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 month ago

Normies: ‘Nato is only a defensive alliance.’

Still waiting for their answer about which NATO country Serbia supposedly attacked in 1999.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
1 month ago

To answer a different question: Nato attacked the one committing genocide.

Mark M
Mark M
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I see you believe NATO and western media propaganda too.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark M

I saw the photographs and videos, and I have actually visited both sides and spoken with locals too. That was enough for me to know genocide was attempted by Serbia.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Stewart
JP Martin
JP Martin
1 month ago

How do you say ‘reconquista’ in Serbian?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

Well done the Serbs.. no woke nonsense there…

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago

No – it’s a change of licence plate rather than gender that has them threatening war.

Lance Stewart
Lance Stewart
1 month ago

Are we to anticipate NATO interference in Serbia/Kosova while it’s interference in Ukraine is still ongoing ? Here’s another chance for that “defensive” organisation to justify its existence, warmongering in areas which do not concern it.

Northern Observer
Northern Observer
1 month ago

Dear America. Stop causing trouble in Europe.