Nato Sec. Gen. Stoltenberg to meet with Kosovo, Serbia reps; tensions still high

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced Friday that he will pay a visit to both Serbia and Kosovo this week in yet another effort to calm tensions between the two states—with the scheduled visit coming as potentially a prelude to still more uncertainty, considering that Serbia will hold Parliamentary elections on Dec. 17.

Both sides have frustrated Brussels, with the EU Parliament also having had recently published a resolution condemning a bizarre ethnic Serb paramilitary raid in Kosovo in September that left one Kosovo police officer dead, with three Serbs also killed.

Kosovo police then published information noting that this was a well-organized raid that included 24 SUVs and a large variety of weapons.

Yet since that time the EU has again seemingly become frustrated with Kosovo and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who has refused an EU proffered plan that would see Kosovo finally establish a community of Serb municipalities (CSM), which was essentially agreed upon in 2013. Yet Kurti wants recognition by Serbia of Kosovo independence first—which is a no-go in part because Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said this will not happen (and likely has his hands tied by his own constituency), but also once Kosovo is recognized as independent… frankly speaking, Kurti simply will have no obligation to do anything for Serbia or ethnic Serbs in North Kosovo.

And meanwhile, the prodding from Kurti and Kosovo has hardly calmed emotions. On Monday Kurti noted he had written to the OSCE to state that Serbia should request from Kosovo the right to allow Kosovo Serbs with Serbian citizenship vote in upcoming Serbian parliamentary elections. Since 2017 the OSCE has aided in the collection of votes in Kosovo during such elections, but Kosovo put a stop to this… and again, Kurti is turning the screws. In short, if there was a move to stir up Serbian nationalists, this was it.

At the same time there were also claims by the Kosovo side that Serbia had put bases big and small on the border on high alert, which would seemingly signal a coming invasion.

This is seen by most observers as beyond unlikely. That said, Serbia’s Vucic is not unwilling to also ramp up emotions, having highlighted past contacts with Russia and also having met with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska leader, the highly controversial Milorad Dodik over the weekend in order to “build closer ties” between the two states.

This will not be welcomed by the EU, NATO or the US, which have recoiled at Dodik’s talk of both secession from BiH, as well as his close ties to Russia.

Noteworthy is that on Jan. 5, 2022, the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on Dodik under Executive Order 14033 (’Blocking Property and Suspending Entry Into the United States of Certain Persons Contributing to the Destabilizing Situation in the Western Balkans’). Moreover, April 11,  2022, Dodik and President of Republika Srpska  Željka Cvijanović were hit by sanctions by the United Kingdom for attempting to undermine the government of BiH.

Photo courtesy of Kjetil Ree, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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