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

Pristina and Belgrade resolved license plate dispute in positive step toward normalisation, but sparred over currency; Kosovo Serbs in north launched petition to remove Albanian mayors from office. 

Normalisation process between Serbia and Kosovo saw progress and setback. Serbia 1 Jan enforced Dec decision allowing cars with Kosovo license plates to enter its territory, though insisted this did not equal recognition; in return, Kosovo 4 Jan ended requirement to cover Serb license plates with stickers. EU 7 Jan welcomed “positive step” toward normalisation. Simultaneously, EU 1 Jan opened visa-free travel to Schengen area for Kosovar citizens. Despite progress, Central Bank 17 Jan announced decision to suspend Serbian dinar beginning 1 Feb, after which Euro will be “only currency allowed” in Kosovo; Serbia 19 Jan condemned measure. EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák 30 Jan urged sides to step up normalisation efforts ahead of June 2024 EU parliamentary elections.

Kosovo Serbs launched petition to remove Albanian mayors from office in north. Hundreds of Kosovo Serbs from northern municipalities 17 Jan started petition to remove four Albanian mayors from office, who were elected in April 2023 municipal polls boycotted by local Serbs. Process began after Pristina issued administrative order in Sept 2023 allowing removal of mayors through petition process as first step toward holding new election. 

Germany bolstered NATO-led force. Germany 16 Jan increased troop contribution to NATO-led force KFOR from 80 to 300 soldiers, citing “worsening security”.

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In The News

15 feb 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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