Unrest in Kosovo

EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner calls for immediate end to unrest in Kosovo. They attest to the EU's utter failure in the region that was illegally seceded from Yugoslavia 23 years ago.

BELGRADE/BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Own report) – EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell is calling for an immediate end to the unrest in Kosovo. "This situation has to end," Borrell demanded yesterday in view of the protests that erupted last weekend because of the deployment of Albanian-speaking police, including special forces, in Serb-speaking northern Kosovo, which included the erection of blockades of various roads. A vehicle of the EU’s EULEX mission in Kosovo came also under attack. Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić called for the deployment of Serbian repressive forces in northern Kosovo – for the protection of the Serbian-speaking minority. Kosovo's President Vjosa Osmani accused Vučić of harboring a 1990s "mentality,” which, at the time, had led to "war" and the "killing of 150,000 civilians." Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti admonished Serbia, calling it a pro-Asian state – presumably a negative counterpart to a "pro-American" Kosovo. More than 23 years after Kosovo was separated from Yugoslavia through the illegal war of aggression, the EU’s efforts to build up the impoverished region has proven an utter failure.

Secession in Violation of International Law

Kosovo – the site of the current unrest – was de facto seceded from Yugoslavia by NATO’s illegal war of aggression back in 1999. Neither its criminal aggression, as such, nor the countless war crimes, some committed by NATO’s bomber pilots,[1] or by Kosovo's UÇK militia operating as NATO’s ground forces,[2] have ever been adequately brought to justice. Kosovo's official secession – also a violation of international law – in February 2008, has also remained without legal consequences for its western protagonists and their partisans in Kosovo. The western powers have certainly not succeeded in obtaining global recognition of Kosovo's secession as they have sought. Only 99 out of 193 UN Member nations – mainly comprised of western states – currently recognize Kosovo as a legitimate nation.[3] The EU has not even managed to commit all its members to make this step. Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, and Cyprus are still refusing to follow suit. Influential powers, beyond the West, such as the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), still rightfully consider the Kosovo's military secession as a violation of international law.

Poverty-Stricken Region

During the more than 23 years since Kosovo's de facto secession, the Western countries, particularly the EU, have failed to help create decent living conditions in the region, even though the EU had officially committed itself to rebuilding the area. According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Kosovo is one of the poorest regions in Europe, with an estimated 23 per cent of the population living in poverty. Kosovo’s GDP per capita is just one-quarter of the European Union average. Notwithstanding, Pristina spends just 8.5 per cent of its GDP on social protection, compared to an average of 28 per cent in the EU. Access to healthcare and education are equally limited.[4] Youth unemployment was at around 48.7 percent last year. Those who have jobs, often have low wages and poor working conditions.[5]

The License Plate Dispute

Tensions between the Albanian-speaking majority and the Serbian-speaking minority in Kosovo have persisted unabated against the backdrop of unchanged regional impoverishment. Over the past few weeks and months, they have even escalated, caused, this time, by Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government’s attempt to impose Kosovo license plates onto the overwhelmingly Serb-majority population in the north of the region. Because the Serbian-speaking minority considers Kosovo’s secession in violation of international law – like nearly half of the countries worldwide – it refuses to accept the Kosovo license plates. Kurti’s government’s attempt to solve the conflict, by all means, in its own favor have proven futile. Nearly all Serbian-speaking public office holders in the north have resigned from their posts in protest. Therefore, new elections were originally scheduled in those municipalities for December 18. The dispute has now been contained under EU pressure. Serbia has agreed to refrain from issuing new Serbian license plates to northern Kosovo residents. And Kurti’s government will refrain from penalizing Serbian-speaking residents for using old Serbian license plates.[6]

Escalating Tensions

However, the compromise was obviously reached too late to prohibit further escalation of the conflict. Last week, the government of Kosovo began dispatching a large number of Albanian-speaking police officers to the majority Serbian-speaking territories in the north of the region. This runs counter to agreements, according to which, such deployment can only be made with the accord of the Serbian-speaking municipalities. That rule is designed to prohibit an escalation of tensions.[7] Precisely the current deployment of Albanian-speaking police has resulted in this escalation. Around the end of last week, Serbian-speaking North Kosovo residents began barricading the streets. Albanian-speaking police officers’ arrests of Serbian-speaking Kosovo residents has driven the escalation spiral a another round higher. In the meantime, Kosovo’s government has decided to postpone municipal elections until April. Serbia’s government under President Aleksandar Vučić has finally spoken up on the weekend. Citing UN Resolution 1244 from 1999, President Vučić is demanding that Serbia’s repressive forces be permitted to protect the Serbian-speaking minority in northern Kosovo.

“Pro-Asian and Warmongering”

With this, the next round of escalation may be looming. UN Resolution 1244 has never been officially repealed and, therefore, in principle, is today still valid. Nevertheless, western countries and the Kosovo government maintain that, since Kosovo has seceded – albeit illegally – the resolution, de facto, is untenable. It seems out of the question that NATO would agree to Serbia’s sending its repressive forces into northern Kosovo. The tensions are being further fanned by wild verbal attacks emanating from Pristina. Recently, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani accused Vučić of harboring a “mentality” that had “existed in Serbia in the ‘90s” and had led “to war, destruction and the killing of 150,000 civilians.”[8] It is unclear where the “150,000 civilians” were supposed to have been killed in Kosovo, during the ‘90s. Years ago, a broad census, beginning in January 1998 and ending in December 2000, counting not only Albanian-speaking victims but also Serbian-speaking victims, arrived at the total of around 13,000 victims.[9] Prime Minister Kurti called on NATO to “punish” the Serbian-speaking protests. Kosovo, he says, is “a European, democratic and pro-American state,” while claiming Serbia is “autocratic, pro-Asian and warmongering.”[10] The West must intervene.

EULEX in the Crosshairs

In the meantime, the EU has become the target of protests. For example, a vehicle belonging to the EU’s EULEX mission – which since 2008 has been attempting to create a rule of law state in Kosovo, without significant success – has now been attacked.[11] Yesterday, the EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell called for an immediate end to the turmoil in Kosovo. It has been reported that the EU foreign ministers have agreed on a new mediation plan for a rapid settling of the conflict. Details, of course, have not yet been made public. Measures to relax the situation are to be negotiated tomorrow, Wednesday. Chances of success are poor.


[1] See also Die zivilen Opfer der Kriege.

[2] See also Die Mafia als Staat and Die Mafia als Staat (II).

[3] Kosovo: Why is trouble flaring up between Serbs and the Albanian-led government? bbc.co.uk 12.12.2022.

[4] UNICEF Kosovo Programme: Annual Report 2021.

[5] Bashkim Bellaqa, Besim Gollopeni: Youth employment and unemployment rates in Kosovo. In: Corporate Governance and Organizational Behavior Review, Volume 5, Issue 2, Special Issue, 2021. S. 212-224.

[6] Michael Martens: Gefahr im Norden des Kosovos. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05.12.2022.

[7] Bojan Ellek: Policing in North Kosovo after Brussels Agreement. k-s-pag.org.

[8] Thomas Gutschker: Neuer Schwung dank Moskau. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07.12.2022.

[9] Helmar Dumbs: Kosovo-Krieg: Tausende Opfer und keine Täter. diepresse.com 14.06.2014.

[10] Alice Taylor: North Kosovo attacks intensify, Belgrade asks NATO to send in military. euractiv.com 12.12.2022.

[11] Bernd Riegert: EU-Außenminister verlieren Geduld mit Kosovo und Serbien. dw.com 12.12.2022.