Clashes between protesters and NATO peacekeepers leave dozens injured

Briefly: At least 30 NATO peacekeepers and just as many civilians have been injured in clashes involving ethnic Serbian protesters in North Kosovo. The protesters were gathered outside a municipal building to demonstrate against new ethnic Albanian mayors, who were elected in a disputed vote in April.

While Kosovo is inhabited primarily by ethnic Albanians, its northern region is home to a Serbian majority. And long-simmering ethnic tensions there came to a head last week. Local Serbs are accusing Kosovo of:

  • Reneging on its promise to grant them more autonomy, and
  • Stoking tensions by backing ethnic Albanian mayors who were elected in polls that the Serbs had boycotted (voter turnout was <4%).

For its part, Kosovo has accused neighbouring Serbia of stirring the pot and supporting violent protesters.

Last Friday’s violence was the worst flare-up in a decade. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić spent the night with Serbian troops near the Kosovo border and placed the army at its highest state of alert. Meanwhile, NATO labelled the attacks against its peacekeeping mission “totally unacceptable”.

Intrigue’s take: If you were to look up ‘“how to undo years of diplomatic efforts in a day”, you might find a detailed account of Friday’s events.

The EU and US have been trying to foster the normalisation of Serbia-Kosovo relations for more than a decade, and things were finally starting to look hopeful just weeks ago. Aaand now it seems we’re back to square one.

Also worth noting:

  • Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia won’t recognise it (neither will Russia, China nor five EU countries).
  • The NATO Mission in Kosovo was established in 1999 and has around 3,800 troops from 27 countries. It’s now sending an extra 700 troops.
  • The US has announced measures against Kosovo for its alleged refusal to heed advice and avoid stoking tensions in its Serb-majority north.
  • Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has been accused of aggravating the situation after he wrote that Kosovo was the heart of Serbia on a camera lens after his first-round victory at the French Open on Monday.
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