EU toughens stance on tensions between Kosovo and Serbia

EU toughens stance on tensions between Kosovo and Serbia

The EU used unusually harsh language on Sunday (August 14) to warn of an escalation between Kosovo and Serbia.

“Senior politicians on both sides will be held accountable for any escalation leading to an escalation of tensions and, potentially, violence in the region”said a spokesman for the European External Action Service, without however naming the leaders of the countries concerned.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti said in an interview on Wednesday (10 August) that his country was ready for a possible attack by Serbia, due to heightened tensions with the Serbian minority, which could lead to a new armed conflict.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said there are plans to “liquidation of our people”in reference to the Serbs of northern Kosovo.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo escalated again earlier this month when Pristina said it would force Serbs living in the north, who enjoy Belgrade’s support and do not recognize Kosovo’s institutions, to start use license plates issued in Pristina.

The situation calmed down after Mr. Kurti agreed to postpone the license plate rule until September 1, under pressure from the United States and the European Union. In addition, peacekeepers from the NATO oversaw the removal of Serb roadblocks.

“We must not rule out that these aggressive policies by Belgrade could also turn into an aggression against Kosovo in one way or another”Mr. Kurti told Reuters. “We are vigilant, but we are not afraid”.

“I’m not saying they’re going to attack us this week or next week, but it would be totally irresponsible to exclude […] the possibility of rising tensions and new conflicts”he added.

This small, landlocked Balkan country gained independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after a guerrilla uprising against the repressive regime in Belgrade.

The Serb ethnic group represents 5% of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Kosovo, 90% of whom are of Albanian origin.

Some 50,000 of them live in northern Kosovo, near the border with Serbia. The other 40,000 live south of the Ibar and use license plates issued by the Kosovo government.

Serbia denies stoking tensions and discord in Kosovo, accusing Pristina of violating the rights of the Serbian minority.

Reference: www.euractiv.fr

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