While multiple statements over the past weeks from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic may have been brushed off as “typical headbutting” with Kosovo, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti appears to have confirmed Serbian fears by stating that Kosovo has indeed been arming itself—although not due to fear of Serbia itself.
Vucic has repeatedly called out Kosovo over what now appears to be turning in to an unnoticed Balkan arms race. Last week Vucic also went so far as to ban sales of Serb military hardware abroad for one month in order to focus on Serbian “security.”
Kurti, meanwhile, told the Daily Vecernje List, as cited by N1info.rs, that Kosovo is arming itself due to Serbia’s “military bases.” He also criticized Vucic for not allowing ethnic Serbis in North Kosovo to properly integrate while criticizing Vucic for his attachment to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the former regime of Yugoslavia.
Indeed, Vucic and Serbia have come under the crossfire of late, with secret service head Aleksandar Vulin sanctioned by the US for alleged links to organized crime, an illegal arms dealer and Russia. Meanwhile, Serbia has also this week appeared to develop inroads with Iran on trade, and Vucic’s warm relationship with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has rankled both the EU and US alike. Still, Vucic has also repeatedly been wooed by both the EU and the US, and ostensibly it the country is still on a loose track to join the EU.
That said, Kurti also has not gotten a pass from either the EU nor the US, which have expressed low-level frustration with his hard line on North Kosovo to the point that Kurti agreed earlier this month to allow new elections and reduce a heavy ethnic-Albanian Kosovo police presence in ethnic-Serb dominated enclaves there.
Meanwhile, both sides are being corralled by the EU in order to “normalize” relations and eventually see Kosovo recognized by Serbia as an independent state—a status that Vucic has many times repeated to his constituency at home that he will never allow.
In short, August may get interesting.
Photo of Kosovo army personnel by SUHEJLO, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.