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 closed six Serb bank offices in north, while govt faced setback in its bid to join Council of Europe.

Talks over currency issue stalled as Pristina closed branches of Serbian bank. EU 15 May announced that Kosovo and Serbia chief negotiators had failed to reach compromise on currency issue following Central Bank’s 1 Feb decision to ban Serbian dinar, primary currency used among Kosovo Serbs. Days later, Kosovo Police 20 May closed six branches of Serbia-run bank in four northern municipalities, saying move sought “to establish order and legality”. Serbia’s Minister of Internal Affairs Ivica Dačić same day decried move as “terror against Serbian people” and warned such actions could lead to “new conflicts in the Balkans”. EU 21 May said closures were “escalatory” and went “against the spirit of normalisation”. 

Kosovo faced setback in bid to join Council of Europe (CoE). CoE’s executive body, Committee of Ministers, 16-17 May held meeting but did not make decision on Kosovo’s membership to human rights body; FM Gervalla-Schwarz 17 May criticised move and accused Serbia of “lobbying campaign against Kosovo’s membership”. Earlier, Italy, France and Germany 15 May sent letter to PM Kurti stating membership was conditional on govt taking steps toward creating Association of Serb-majority Municipalities which would enable greater autonomy for Serb municipalities.

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In The News

3 kwi 2024
Kosovo is winning the battle for control of its rebellious north, while hopes for normalisation between Pristina and Belgrade are fading . Bota Sot

Marko Prelec

Consulting Senior Analyst, Balkans
15 lut 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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