Kosovo-Serbia tensions spike significantly over weekend

by Cristian Florescu

Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia flared once again over the weekend after a Kosovo Serb was arrested for setting fire to ethnic-Serb-owned cars that switched to Kosovo number plates.

The government in Pristina announced that all vehicles belonging to Kosovo citizens must have Pristina-issued plates in 2022. The decision caused outrage from the Serb minority in the north of the country, who continue to use Serbia-issued plates and do not recognise Kosovo’s independence. Several vehicles that did make the switch were set on fire last week. Police arrested an individual on suspicion of arson, but also for an attack on a Kosovo police unit, being a member of a criminal group, assault of a public official, and attempted murder. Kosovo police said the arrest came after “intensive investigations by relevant police units” in a bid to fight organised crime and prevent further criminal acts. The arrest was not well received by Serbian List, the ethnic-Serb political party in Kosovo. They continued in a statement that it would not be “some warning”, but rather an uprising against what they call Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s “repression of innocent citizens.” Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on Sunday accused the Kosovo government of creating a new crisis and wanting to “avoid the obligations” it made during the EU-facilitated dialogue.

“This is a real indication of their clear intention that they do not want peace and that they are trying to avoid the commitments they made in Ohrid, among other things… It is very clear that there is an old situation looming, and a new crisis produced by Pristina,” Dacic said. .

He called on the international community to take urgent action to stop Albin Kurti.

In the early hours of Sunday, an explosive device was thrown at police officers in North Mitrovica. The police are investigating the incident. The talks have resulted in a verbal agreement from both sides on normalising relations, and an annexe of how provisions of the agreement will be implemented. This new unrest comes amid ongoing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, facilitated by the EU, in a bid to normalise relations. Following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, Serbia has refused to recognise it.

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