De-escalation on Kosovo-Serbia border —for now

Kosovo on Dec. 29 reopened its main border crossing with Serbia following calls from the international community to de-escalate rapidly rising tensions between the two countries. Serb protesters removed barricades along the border crossing following a meeting the previous night with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. An order issued by Vučić days earlier to increase the Serbian army's combat readiness was also revoked. However, Vučić insisted that Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, is still a part of Serbia.

Speaking of the Serb protesters along Kosovo's northern border, Vučić said they were his "brothers and sisters," and that he would continue to fight for them.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani described the situation along the border as very dangerous, and warned that "the lives of our policemen, [NATO mission] KFOR soldiers, [EU rule-of-law mission] EULEX personnel, and above all civilians may be at risk." 

The head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, Caroline Ziadeh, welcomed the barricade removal, while stressing "the importance of upholding commitments and resuming talks to fully address outstanding issues and normalize relations without delay."

The dispute along Kosovo's northern border is just the latest in a series of events that have drawn international concern in the disputed territory, including a wave of attacks on journalists stationed in the area. Tensions have risen in Kosovo's north between minority Serbs and majority Kosovar Albanians over recent political developments, most notably Kosovo's plan to phase out Serbian-issued license plates. 

NATO maintains around 4,000 peacekeepers and support staff in Kosovo.

From Jurist, Dec. 29. Used with permission.

Serbia sends troops to border after Kosovo clashes

Serbia has placed the army on alert and moved units to the Kosovo border, after clashes between police and members of Kosovo's Serb minority. Ten people were injured in the violence after residents gathered outside state buildings in the Serb-majority border town of Zvecan. Police used tear-gas to disperse the protesters, and gunshots and explosions could be heard in videos posted online.

Clashes began after police moved to install new ethnic Albanian mayors. Ethnic Serbs boycotted April's local elections in four northern municipalities, allowing ethnic Albanians to take control of the local governments. (BBC News)

Kosovo police fire tear-gas at Serb protesters

On May 26, police in the northern Kosovo town of Zvecan fired tear-gas to break up protests opposing the appointment of ethnic-Albanian mayors. Footage showed a police vehicle set on fire and the use of flash-bangs and possibly automatic weapons fire.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that the Serbian army is on a high state of alert, and Kosovo has increased the presence of security forces in the north.

Blerim Vela, the chief of staff for Kosovo's government, accused Serbia of being responsible for the protests and said he would hold their "illegal and criminal structures in North Kosovo" accountable for escalating tensions on the ground.

In a joint statement, the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy condemned the police action and called for deescalation from both Kosovo and Serbia. (Jurist)

NATO peacekeepers injured in clashes over Kosovo elections

Clashes with Serb protesters in Kosovo May 30 resulted in the injury of 30 NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeepers. Shortly after the incident, NATO announced it will deploy additional forces to the region. (Jurist)  

Serbia releases seized Kosovo police

A court in Kraljevo, Serbia, on June 26 ordered the release of three Kosovo police officers who Serbia says it arrested on Serbian territory—and who Kosovo says were abducted inside Kosovo last week. The court also said it confirmed an indictment against the officers for arms trafficking. Their release apparently came after te intercession of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (Balkan Insight)

Tensions high in North Kosovo after monastery siege

Following a deadly clash between a group of "heavily armed" Serbs and Kosovo police, the mood among local Serbs in North Kosovo is worse than ever.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Sept. 24 that around 30 armed men, who he claimed had entered Kosovo to destabilize the situation in the country, had shot a policeman dead and wounded two others before moving to a Serbian Orthodox monastery in Banjska/Banjske, where worshippers and monks locked themselves inside.

After a siege lasting several hours, at least three attackers were confirmed dead and six suspects arrested. Some of the attackers are severely injured. They are being held on suspicion of terrorist offenses. (BalkanInsight)

Concerns over Kosovo actions against Serbian-run organizations

The US and the EU issued statements expressing concern over the Kosovo government's recent raids on Serbian-run organizations, as well as the banning of Serbian currency. (Jurist)

Serbia: ex-state security members acquitted in journalist murder

The Belgrade Court of Appeal in Serbia acquitted Fab. 2 four ex-members of the Republic of Yugoslavia security services of the murder of journalist Slavko Ćuruvija.

Ćuruvija was a journalist and owner of the first private daily newspaper in Serbia, Dnevni Telegraf. He was shot and killed outside of his apartment on April 11, 1999. This happened just days after he was accused by pro-government media outlets of being a traitor and complicit wit NATO's attacks on Yugoslavia that occurred that year. His murder was later said by police to have been an assassination planned by former Serbian spy agency chief Radmoir Markovic. Markovic died in 2006. The four ex-members of the security service were arrested in 2014 by the Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime. (Jurist)

Kosovo referendum to remove mayors in northern areas fails

A referendum to remove Albanian mayors in four Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo failed on April 21 following low turnout. The Central Commission of Elections of Kosovo declared that until 15:30 only 203 citizens voted in the referendum, with around one percent turnout at the end of the process.

The referendum comes at heightened tensions following the advancement of Kosovo's membership into the Council of Europe, fiercely opposed by Serbia. Days ago the Serb List, the main Kosovo Serb political party, announced that it would not participate in the referendum. (Jurist)