There were increased tensions on the Serbia – Kosovo border this week when the Kosovan government attempted again to order the 50,000 Serbians living there to switch from using Serbian car number plates to Kosovan ones along with other documentation. This led to an immediate reaction from the ethnic Serbians, with road blocks set up on two cross-border roads and shots fired, although nobody was hurt.
The background to the antipathy, nay hatred, between Serbians and Kosovan Albanians goes back into the mists of time; suffice to say that according to one of my colleagues who has served there it makes the Troubles in Northern Ireland look like “a picnic in the park”. More recently, when Yugoslavia disintegrated after the death of Tito, part of the upheaval was the Kosovo War on 1998-99, when Serbian and Montenegrin forces fought the Kosovan Liberation Army.
Eventually NATO intervened under UN Security Council Resolution 1224, restored peace, and maintains a force of approximately 4,000 troops drawn from twenty-eight nations there currently. The commander of this force, known as KFOR, has said his command will do “whatever it takes” to maintain stability. Kosovo is now recognised by the USA and major nations worldwide, but not by Serbia or its traditional ally, Russia.
The confrontation has now died away with the agreement of the Kosovan authorities to delay their move to regulate ethnic Serbians by a month. Some have suggested that Russia was behind this current spate of border troubles, agitating to draw NATO attention away from the Ukraine conflict, but this is speculation at best. It will be interesting to see what develops when Kosovo attempts to reintroduce the regulatory measures in September.