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

EU pushed for progress on normalisation with Serbia, NATO mulled expanding peacekeeping force amid tensions in north, and Kosovo Serb participation in Serbia’s Dec poll remained uncertain.

EU reiterated normalising relations with Serbia “essential”. In 8 Nov reports on EU enlargement, EU Commission reiterated normalisation process “essential” for both parties, pledged for “more serious commitment” on both sides; EU report on Kosovo also called on authorities to organise “fully inclusive” local elections “as soon as possible” in Serb-majority northern municipalities. Meanwhile, EU 13 Nov confirmed existence of proposal for establishing Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM); FM Donika Gërvalla 24 Nov said European CSM proposal was “good basis” for discussions.

Kosovo warned of continued threat from Serbia. Following deadly attack in northern Kosovo late Sept, PM Kurti 19 Nov warned of continued threat emanating from Serbia. NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg 20 Nov confirmed NATO is considering “more enduring increased presence” in Kosovo, while warning Belgrade to avoid another military build-up near border. German FM Baerbock 29 Nov announced deployment of “150 additional troops” to NATO-led force in Kosovo.

Uncertainty over Kosovo Serb participation in Serbia’s elections persisted. After Serbia 13 Oct scheduled snap parliamentary elections for 17 Dec, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) 3 Nov received Serb request to support participation of voters living in Kosovo; OSCE made support conditional on Pristina’s approval. After PM Kurti 19 Nov insisted on need for “special agreement”, Serbia 22 Nov changed tack, allowing voters to cross border to cast their ballot.

Six arrested in Pristina at protest against Head of Hague-based War Crimes Court. Protesters 29 Nov reportedly used smoke grenades to protest at visit of Ekaterina Trendafilova, President of Kosovo Specialist Chambers, Hague-based court with jurisdiction over crimes “either commenced or committed” in Kosovo 1998-2000; police subsequently arrested six members of Social Democratic opposition party.

Continue reading

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

Latest Updates

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.