Serbia has strongly criticized NATO-led peacekeepers stationed in Kosovo for their alleged failure to prevent “brutal actions” by Kosovo police against ethnic Serbs. The condemnation comes after violent clashes erupted between Kosovo police and ethnic Serbs, prompting Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic to convene a high-level meeting of political and security leaders in Belgrade. In response to the clashes, President Vucic ordered troops to move closer to the border with Kosovo and declared that the armed forces would remain on high alert until further notice. Serbia expressed dissatisfaction with both the international civilian mission and NATO troops stationed in Kosovo, accusing them of inadequately safeguarding the Serb population.
In an attempt to ease tensions, NATO spokesperson Oana Longescu called for an immediate de-escalation in Kosovo and emphasized the importance of resolving the situation through dialogue. The clashes had arisen when ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, who constitute a majority in the region, sought to prevent recently elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings. The snap local election, which took place last month, was largely boycotted by ethnic Serbs, resulting in the election of predominantly ethnic Albanian and minority representatives.
Serb politicians in northern Kosovo went a step further, calling for Serbia to suspend its participation in EU-mediated talks aimed at normalizing relations with Kosovo. The situation escalated as Kosovo police employed tear gas to disperse the crowd obstructing the officials, leading to the ignition of several vehicles.
The actions of Kosovo’s government were met with criticism from the United States and several Western countries, who condemned the use of police force. However, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti defended the police action, asserting that elected officials had the right to assume office without facing threats or intimidation.
President Vucic, taking a firm stance, warned that Belgrade would retaliate against any violence directed at Serbs and accused the “Albanian regime” in Kosovo of terrorizing the Serbian population, allegedly with the tacit approval of the West. He affirmed the readiness of Serbs to defend themselves in the event of an attack and expressed his determination to prevent the expulsion of Serbian people.
The conflict in Kosovo originated in 1998 when ethnic Albanians rebelled against Serbian rule, resulting in a brutal crackdown by Serbia. In 1999, NATO intervened militarily, compelling Serbia to withdraw from the region. While the majority of EU countries and the United States have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, Serbia, Russia, and China have not acknowledged its sovereignty.
President Vucic’s warnings about potential actions against violence targeting Serbs are not without precedent. In the past, he has stepped up combat readiness during moments of tension with Kosovo. However, any attempt by Serbia to send troops over the border would result in a clash with NATO forces stationed in Kosovo.
Speaking at a meeting of his ruling populist party, President Vucic criticized the “Albanian regime” in Kosovo, accusing it of conducting terror against the Serbian people with the tacit approval of the West. He expressed his certainty that Serbs would defend themselves if attacked and emphasized the importance of preventing the expulsion of the Serbian population.
Meanwhile, the United States and several Western countries condemned Kosovo’s government for resorting to police force to forcibly allow entry to the municipal buildings. Prime Minister Albin Kurti defended the action, asserting that elected officials have the right to assume office without facing threats or intimidation. He emphasized that political views in a democracy should be expressed through peaceful participation, not violent obstruction.
The clashes in Kosovo arose when ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo attempted to block recently elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings. This followed a snap local election that was largely boycotted by ethnic Serbs, resulting in the election of predominantly ethnic Albanian and minority representatives to the mayoral posts and assemblies.
In response to the escalation, Serb politicians in northern Kosovo called on Serbia to suspend its participation in EU-mediated talks aimed at normalizing relations with Kosovo. Goran Rakic, a Kosovo politician, deemed further negotiations with Pristina as illogical and counterproductive.
NATO spokesperson Oana Longescu urged institutions in Kosovo to de-escalate the situation immediately and stressed the need for dialogue to resolve the ongoing tensions. She assured that NATO remains vigilant and committed to ensuring a safe and secure environment in Kosovo.
As the situation unfolds, Serbia continues to condemn the alleged failure of NATO-led peacekeepers and international civilian missions to protect ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. The repercussions of the clashes and the simmering tensions between Serbia and Kosovo are likely to shape future discussions on the normalization of relations in the region.