Salem Radio Network News Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Kosovo: Serbian unrest continues in north

(Reuters) – Unrest in Kosovo’s north has intensified since ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the region’s Serb-majority area after April elections boycotted by the Serbs, a move that led the U.S. and its allies to rebuke Pristina on Friday.

    Serbs, who make up a majority in Kosovo’s north, have never accepted its 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, which has been recognized by major EU countries and the United States.

Following is a timeline of the main developments and events in Serbia-Kosovo relations since the late 1990s:

February 1998 – Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas launch an uprising against Serbia’s repressive rule in its southern province, whose population is 90% ethnic Albanian.

June 1999 – After a 78-day NATO bombing campaign against Serbian military targets, rump Yugoslavia comprising Serbia and Montenegro signs a deal to withdraw troops and police from Kosovo.

November 2001 – First parliamentary election, supervised by Europe’s main security and rights watchdog, the OSCE, leads to formation of an all-party governing coalition.

February 2007 – U.N. Special Envoy Marti Ahtisaari presents a U.S.- and European-backed plan for “supervised independence”, but Russian objections – backing Serbia’s refusal to cede sovereignty over Kosovo – block U.N. Security Council approval.

Feb. 17, 2008 – Kosovo, backed by the United States and most EU member countries, declares independence. Tens of thousands of Serbs protest in Belgrade and the empty U.S. Embassy is set on fire, leaving one person dead.

June 2008 – Launch of EU’s EULEX mission, mandated to crack down on endemic corruption and organised crime in Kosovo, train a Kosovo police force and investigate war crimes cases dating to the 1990s conflict.

February 2009 – The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicts five senior Serbian officials including the army chief of staff and former head of Kosovo’s police of war crimes, including expulsions, deportations and murder of Kosovo Albanians during the 1999 NATO bombing.

July 2010 – The International Court of Justice rules in an advisory opinion that Kosovo’s independence declaration did not violate general international law.

September 2012 – International supervision of Kosovo’s fledgling democracy ends. EULEX mission continues, given persistent lawlessness, reducing to monitoring role from 2018.

April 2013 – Pristina and Belgrade sign a deal committing to an EU-mediated dialogue to resolve outstanding issues. Pristina agrees to grant semi-autonomy to Kosovo Serbs, a move that is stalled by Kosovo high court objections that parts of it are unconstitutional.

August 2015 – Kosovo lawmakers approve a special court to try war crimes cases. Due to local sensitivities, including possible intimidation of witnesses, the court is comprised of international judges and based in The Hague in the Netherlands.

2017 – Hardline Kosovo Albanian opposition parties repeatedly release tear gas in parliament in a months-long campaign to foil any deal on normalisation with Serbia and another with Montenegro on border demarcation.

December 2018 – Kosovo forms its own armed forces, drawing protests from Belgrade.

November 2020 – After he is indicted by the Kosovo war crimes court, President Hashim Thaci, the former top KLA commander revered by many compatriots, resigns and is extradited to The Hague for trial.

2021-22 – Tensions flare over Pristina government attempts to enforce the adoption of Kosovo car license plates by Serbs in the north, replacing Serbian registration. EU mediation yields a Pristina government decision not to enforce the license plate rule until late 2023.

January 2023 – After years of inconclusive EU-mediated negotiations, U.S. and European envoys meet Serbian and Kosovo leaders to prod them to sign an 11-point normalisation plan first presented in mid-2022.

It calls for implementation of past deals, including an association of semi-autonomous Serb municipalities as outlined in 2013. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti objects on grounds this would create a mini-state and effectively split Kosovo along ethnic lines. Western mediators dismiss such concerns.

Feb. 2, 2023 – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic warns parliament that if Belgrade does not accept the EU plan, its EU membership talks will be derailed and access to pre-accession funds and investments denied. Opposition nationalist lawmakers cry “betrayal” and scuffle with ruling party deputies.

Feb. 6, 2023 – Kurti says yes to the EU plan, with caveats. He calls it “a good basis for further discussion, provided concerns such as “international guarantees” are tackled – flagging possible conditions for local Serb self-governance.

April 23, 2023 – Serbs in northern Kosovo boycotted local elections in protest their demands for more autonomy have not been met, in another sign that a peace deal signed between Kosovo and Serbia last month is not working.

May 19, 2023 – A mayor from Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian ruling party was sworn into office in the majority Serb half of the divided town of Mitrovica, a month after local elections that were boycotted by local Serbs.

May 26, 2023 – Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the United States condemned Kosovo’s decision to force access to municipal buildings in northern Kosovo, calling on authorities to step back and de-escalate the situation.

May 30, 2023 – Attacks by Serb demonstrators on NATO troops left at least 30 NATO peacekeepers and 52 Serbs injured on Monday, after ethnic Albanian mayors took office in northern Kosovo’s Serb-majority area following April’s elections boycotted by the Serbs.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina and Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade; editing by Bernadette Baum)


Editorial Cartoons

View More »

Bob Gorrell
Tue, Sep 26, 2023