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What is happening in Kosovo? The keys to the crisis with Serbia

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Tension is growing on Kosovo’s border with Serbia. More than 20 years after the end of the war, peace is not yet a reality. The latest clash began after the entry into force this Monday of a new Kosovar regulations on identity documents and license plates whereby those entering the country from Serbia will have to exchange their Serbian identity documents for identity documents issued by Pristina valid for three months. The Government of Kosovo has decided to postpone for one month, until September 1, the implementation of the ban.

It has been 23 years since the war in Kosovo was declared over, but since then normalcy has never been achieved in a territory still pending official recognition by numerous countries, including five from the European Union, including Spain. The war took place in the former Serbian region between the end of February 1998 and June 11, 1999, and pitted forces from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (which at the time consisted of the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro) and the group Albanian rebel from Kosovo, known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), with air support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and ground support from the Albanian army. After the war, Kosovo became an autonomous territory under the tutelage of the United Nations, who subsequently took charge of determining the future status of the territory. Talks began in 2006 and the UN hosted 17 rounds of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, but the Kosovar independence plan negotiated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari was rejected by Serbia. Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, but it is not yet recognized by Serbia as an independent state, although more than 100 countries do.

A series of clashes between Kosovo and Serbia began on Sunday with blockades of border crossings and roads a few hours earlier than planned. beginning of the ban on Serbian documents and license plates in Kosovo. Shortly before, the Kosovo Police had closed the Brnjak and Jarinje border crossings for traffic and deployed its patrols in the north of Kosovo, where the Serb minority is concentrated, in order to carry out these checks and change documentation. The Serbs, who oppose the new measures, they set up barricades on the roads that lead from Mitrovica, where they are the majority, to those two border crossings. Serbia and Kosovo accused each other of trying to destabilize the region. Under the new measures, people who enter Kosovo with Serb identity cards will receive a temporary Kosovar document valid for 90 days. In addition, license plates issued by Serbia for Kosovar cities with a Serb majority will have to be replaced by official Kosovo ones. The conflict between the two sides began in September 2021, when Kosovo ordered all drivers entering the country from Serbia to use temporary license plates valid for 60 days, a measure that was already in place for drivers entering Serbia from Kosovo. since 2008.

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NATO Force for Kosovo (KFOR) is a multinational military force that entered Kosovo on June 12, 1999, two days after the United Nations Security Council approved resolution 1244 with the aim of keep the order and security in Kosovo, maintain the points agreed in the peace agreement and provide assistance to the program of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). This Sunday at the last minute she announced that “she is prepared to intervene” in the event that the stability of northern Kosovo is endangered, after the confrontations began. “KFOR will take all necessary measures to maintain a secure environment in Kosovo at all times, in accordance with its UN mandate,” he said in a statement on his Twitter account, after the rise in tensions in the north. of Kosovo registered in the last hours.

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The Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, met this weekend with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić, with whom he held a meeting in which he transferred his support to Serbia. “He unites us with the conviction of the need to guarantee international law and the sovereign integrity of States. We support Serbia in everything that has to do with Kosovo“, stressed the head of the Executive. The Government supports the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, but without implying a change in the historical position of Madrid in this conflict. Five EU countries, including Spain, do not recognize the unilateral declaration of Kosovar independence 2008. The EU, however, acts as a mediator in the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, on which the general normalization of relations and the possibilities of joining the community bloc would depend.

Postponement of measures

Following the clashes, the Government of Kosovo has decided postpone for a monthuntil September 1, the application of the ban on Serbian documents and license plates in its territory after the tensions that were experienced last night at two border points between the two countries. According to a statement issued last night, the government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti conditions the postponement to the removal of the barricades placed by local Serbs in protest at the measure. The note indicates that the decision was taken after a meeting with the US ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier. The Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, for his part, declared that he is working “to calm down the situation.”

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