EU hardens the tone in Kosovo-Serbia standoff

The EU on Sunday (14 August) used unusually tough language to warn against escalation between Kosovo and Serbia.

“Senior politicians of the two Parties will be held responsible for any escalation that leads to any increased tensions and, potentially violence in the region”, a spokesperson of the European External Action Service stated, stopping short of naming the countries’ leaders.

Kosovo Prime minister Albin Kurti on Wednesday said in an interview that his country is prepared to stand against a possible attack by Serbia as worsening strife with minority Serbs could result in a new armed conflict.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said there were plans about “liquidation of our people”, referring to the ethnic Serbs in Northern Kosovo.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared again earlier this month when Pristina said it would oblige Serbs living in the north, who are backed by Belgrade and do not recognise Kosovo institutions, to start using license plates issued in Pristina.

The situation calmed after Kurti, under US and EU pressure, agreed to postpone the car number plates rule until 1 September and NATO peacekeepers supervised the removal of roadblocks set up by Serbs.

“We should not exclude that these aggressive policies of Belgrade could also turn into an assault against Kosovo in one way or the other,” Kurti told Reuters, speaking in English. “We are vigilant, but not afraid.

He added: “I am not saying they are going to attack us this week or next, but it would be totally irresponsible to exclude…the possibility of rising tensions and new conflicts.”

The tiny landlocked Balkan country gained independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after a guerrilla uprising against repressive Belgrade rule.

Ethnic Serbs account for 5% of Kosovo’s 1.8 million population, which is 90% ethnic Albanian.

Some 50,000 of them live in north Kosovo, near the border with Serbia. The remaining 40,000 live south of the River Ibar and are using Kosovo government-issued license plates.

Serbia denies whipping up tensions and conflict in Kosovo, accusing Pristina of trampling on the rights of minority Serbs.


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