Kosovo-Serbia: A Risky Moment for the International Community
For the first time since independence in 2008 there is a sense in Kosovo that the international community is choosing sides with NATO supporting the Kosovo government and the EU critical of it. The public perception may be false – as both NATO and EU are working closely together to assure security after the 25 July attempt by the Kosovo special police to take control of two custom posts with Serbia and the consequent burning of one of those posts by Serb protestors – but if this public perception persists tensions will rise, and it will become much more difficult for either party to mediate. One Kosovo police has already been killed.
KFOR is now firmly in control of the two disputed Northern customs points and supporting operations of the Kosovo police. Traffic is opened only for small vehicles and limited goods. The Kosovo Serbs remain firm that they want to go back to the pre 25 July situation when Serbs manned the posts and are maintaining roadblocks impeding KFOR movement. The Kosovo Albanians are adamant that they will keep control of the gates which have not only a political but also financial importance as the absence of Kosovo customs meant a loss of €30-40 million annually.
Until now most Kosovo Serbs saw KFOR as a peacekeeping force which could help protect them in case of attack. But KFOR command has expressly said that Kosovo officials are the only legitimate authority it will cooperate with and transfer power to. Last week after they helped transport and supply Kosovo police to the disputed customs gates, for the Serbs KFOR became an occupying force, supporting the imposition of customs as a forcible separation from their homeland Serbia. KFOR has become – in their eyes – a legitimate target; today Kosovo Serbs are setting up roadblocks but tomorrow extremists may up the ante. Many of these hardliners have of course been benefiting from smuggling opportunities for years – often cooperating with Kosovo Albanians.
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