Serbia-Kosovo Clash: Uncovering the Root Causes Behind Recent Tensions

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared anew this weekend after Kosovo’s police raided Serb-dominated areas in the region’s north and seized local municipality buildings.

Where does the conflict originate?

The region has seen strife for many years.

Muslim ethnic Albanians make up the majority of the population of Kosovo. In 2008, it declared its independence from the mostly Christian Orthodox nation of Serbia. Despite the fact that Kosovo is recognized as a sovereign state by the US and the majority of EU nations, Serbia disagrees and maintains that it belongs to its territory.

Image: eurodialogue.org

In Kosovo, there are still a number of Serb Orthodox monasteries, mostly in the north and Serbian nationalists continue to see the conflict with Ottoman Turks in 1389 as a metaphor for their own war.

13,000 dead and a million displaced

Image: independent.co.uk

Kosovo was a sovereign Yugoslav province during the Soviet era, as established by the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution. However, ethnic Albanians there demanded full republican status, sparking rioting in 1981.

Slobodan Milosevic assumed the presidency of Serbia in the late 1980s.By 1989, he had eliminated Kosovo’s autonomous status and imposed direct authority from Belgrade after first taking advantage of tensions with the Serbian population there.

Early in the 1990s, a nonviolent Kosovan resistance movement arose in reaction. However, since it was unable to accomplish its goals, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which was ready to use violence to win independence, succeeded it in 1997. In 1998, Milosevic’s ruthless crackdown killed around 13,000 people.

In 1998, a NATO-drafted peace deal was broken by the Serbian leader, who was eventually prosecuted with war crimes. This led to a NATO military campaign to put an end to the conflict.

After 78 days, mostly marked by intense bombardment, Milosevic bowed out.

A NATO-backed peacekeeping force (KFOR) and a brief UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo were given administration of Kosovo by Serbia in June 1999.

Up to a million ethnic Serbs fled their homes and ethnic Albanians continued to exact revenge by kidnapping or killing them.

Kosovo eventually attained independence on February 17, 2008, following early 2000s collaboration on a set of guiding principles for its future by the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia.

Why have tensions saparked up again?

Image: ctvnews.ca

Northern Kosovo conducted local elections in April.

Because they still want to be reunited with Belgrade, the bulk of Serbs boycotted the election. All that was left to elect to mayoral and assembly positions were ethnic Albanians and other minorities. Last week, when they arrived to assume office, Serbs demonstrated in front of municipal offices to prevent them from entering.

They got into a fight with the local police, who were using tear gas, and NATO forces.

NATO said that 30 of its soldiers—11 from Italy and 19 from Hungary—were hurt during the fighting.

Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia, the commander, reported that three Serbs were critically damaged out of 52 injuries.

After stationing itself near the Kosovo border late last year, Serbia increased its military preparedness, which led to the skirmishes this past weekend.

What happens next?

Image: ft.com

International attempts to reduce tensions in the area have been ongoing since the 1990s bloodshed. They are currently working to expedite talks so they may reach a new deal in the upcoming months.

Serbians are being restrained from using violence in Kosovo by NATO peacekeeping forces because doing so might lead to a larger confrontation with NATO partners. The EU has also made an effort to improve ties between the parties, although with little success.

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