Escalation in Northern Kosovo: Causes, Dangers and Prospects

On 29 May, a group of ethnic Serb protesters clashed with troops of the NATO peacekeeping force KFOR in the town of Zvečan in northern Kosovo. Demonstrators were angry at the Kosovo government’s decision to instal ethnic Albanian mayors, elected in a poll boycotted by the region’s majority ethnic Serb population, in the country’s northern municipalities. The mayors’ installation and ensuing clashes followed months of escalating tensions and efforts by the EU to return the parties to pragmatic negotiations. Now, Brussels and Washington are frustrated with Kosovo’s actions, which they see as unnecessary provocations, and seeking ways to avoid further escalation and incentivise the parties to implement past promises.

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks with Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for the Western Balkans, to unpack what’s behind the most recent flare-up in tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. They discuss the history of Kosovo-Serbia relations and the events leading up to the latest outbreak of violence. They talk about what it means for the normalisation process between Pristina and Belgrade and what international actors like the U.S. and EU can do to reduce the tensions. Finally, they discuss the risks of escalation and prospects for resolving the crisis. 

For more in-depth analysis of the topics discussed in this episode, check out our latest Q&A Behind the Renewed Troubles in Northern Kosovo, our EU Watch List entry Kosovo-Serbia: Finding a Way Forward and our Kosovo country page.

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