The World Today for June 05, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

Enmity, Long and Deep

KOSOVO

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, around a decade after NATO bombed Serbian forces who were brutalizing the ethnic Albanian communities in the formerly Serb region. It’s one of the final chapters of the tragic, bloody breakup of communist Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

But ethnic Serbians living in northern Kosovo today, who account for around five percent of the population, don’t want to be citizens of the majority ethnic-Albanian country. Turnout in last month’s local elections dropped to three percent – enough for Albanian candidates to win control of mayoralties and local governments.

That’s when the real problems started.

As the Associated Press explained, when authorities in the capital of Pristina dispatched security forces to make sure new ethnic-Albanian officials could assume their posts, clashes broke out between the police and Serb protesters. More than 50 Serb demonstrators and around 30 NATO peacekeepers were injured.

NATO has already sent around 700 new troops to help protect the nearly 4,000-strong peacekeeping forces that have been in the region since the late 1990s. They are now also preparing to send more, if necessary, the BBC reported.

Serbia’s role in Kosovo’s internal tensions isn’t helping calm things down. Leaders in Belgrade, as well as their Russian allies in Moscow, don’t recognize Kosovo’s independence. The region hosts many medieval Serbian Orthodox Christian monasteries as well as the historic battleground where the Ottoman Turks defeated independent Serbian forces in 1389, a symbol of Serbia’s national struggle.

After the civil unrest, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called on Kosovo’s leaders to remove the controversial Albanian mayors from office, noted Al Jazeera. Vucic also put the Serbian army on its highest alert, wrote the New York Times, raising the specter of fighting that might resemble that of the 1990s.

Russia issued a statement criticizing the US and Europe’s alleged manipulation of the situation. “We call on the West to finally halt its deceitful propaganda and stop blaming the incidents in Kosovo on desperate Serbs, who are trying to defend their legitimate rights and freedom peacefully and without weapons,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement printed in the Moscow Times.

But even the US and leading European leaders have been less-than-generous toward Kosovo officials as the crisis has unfolded. They criticized Prime Minister Albin Kurti and called on him to defuse rather than further inflame tensions, according to Politico.

This enmity has existed for years. There aren’t many reasons to think that it would change anytime soon.

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