The long-running dispute between Kosovo and Serbia was a major driver of conflict in the Balkans in the 1990s and led to the separation of Kosovo (with its ethnic Albanian majority) from Serbia at the end of that decade. Belgrade and Pristina have never normalised relations with each other, with Serbia continuing to refuse to recognise Kosovo’s independence. The sharpest point of friction today is the level of self-rule in the four northern Kosovo municipalities, home to a Serb majority, and their connection to Serbia. Violent protests have occurred repeatedly since 2021. Crisis Group closely watches developments in the region and recommends ways to foster dialogue that could help avert violence and eventually lead to normalised relations.

CrisisWatch Kosovo

Unchanged Situation

Kosovo Serbs boycotted vote on removal of ethnic Albanian mayors in north, Serbia conducted military drills close to border, and vote in Council of Europe brought Kosovo step closer to membership. 

Kosovo Serbs boycotted referendum on ouster of ethnic Albanian mayors in north. Kosovo Serbs 21 April boycotted referendum on removing ethnic Albanian mayors from office in Serb-majority northern municipalities after political party Serbian List 7 April announced it would not participate; party previously boycotted April 2023 poll that resulted in election of four Albanian mayors and subsequent unrest. EU and U.S. 11 April expressed regret over decision to call for abstention. Incumbent mayors set to remain in place, hampering efforts to de-escalate tensions. 

Serbia conducted military drills near border with Kosovo. Over 2,000 Serb soldiers 8-21 April participated in military exercises near border with Montenegro and Kosovo. PM Kurti 19 April accused Serbia of threatening “the security and safety of the region and Europe”. 

Kosovo inched closer to Council of Europe (CoE) membership. Parliamentary Assembly of human rights body CoE 16 April voted in favour of Kosovo’s membership; Serbia’s FM Ivica Dačić same day vowed Belgrade would “fight to prevent” Kosovo from joining. CoE’s executive body Committee of Ministers 16-17 May will vote on final decision.

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In The News

15 Úno 2023
There’s just zero trust [between Kosovo and Serbia] and active hostility on both sides. Gzero

Marko Prelec

Consulting Senior Analyst, Balkans

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