On Friday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic put the army on alert and ordered troops to move closer to the border with Kosovo. He reacted to clashes in northern Kosovo between ethnic Serbs and Kosovo police, writes Reuters.
Clashes erupted in Kosovo’s northern Zvecan district after Kosovo police tried to help a newly elected Albanian mayor take office. He was thwarted in this by local ethnic Serbs, who represent the majority in the area, and boycotted the local elections. Local media reported that the Kosovo police used tear gas against a crowd gathered in front of the town hall. Protesters set fire to one police car.
“An order has been given for the immediate transfer of troops to the border with Kosovo,” Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic said live on television. “It is clear that there is terror against the Serbian community in Kosovo,” he added.
About 50,000 Serbs live in four districts, including Zvecan, in northern Kosovo. They boycotted local elections held on 23 April to protest that their demands for more autonomy were not met. This is a new snag in the peace agreement that Kosovo and Serbia concluded in March of this year.
Voter turnout was just 3.47 percent, and local Serbs said they would not cooperate with new mayors in four districts because they are not their elected representatives. All four mayors are ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo’s population.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, less than a decade after Belgrade lost control of the autonomous region to war and NATO airstrikes. Serbia does not recognize independence and still considers Kosovo part of its territory. Both countries have long sought to join the European Union. However, it is their mutual conflicts that complicate it.
The situation on the Kosovo-Serbian border also escalated late last year when armed Serb demonstrators blocked roads and opened fire on police. In response, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti even asked NATO peacekeepers to intervene and negotiate peace in the region.