Europe

The Conflict in Kosovo Part 4

Opposition to government policy

With a new government in place, EU-led negotiations on the details of the 2013 agreement with Serbia could resume. At the end of August 2015, it was agreed on a far-reaching autonomy for ten Serb-dominated municipalities in the north, that Kosovo would have its own country code, that the energy transfer between Serbia and Kosovo would be regulated and that the barricades would be removed on the bridge dividing the city of Mitrovica.

The opposition parties, led by the Albanian-nationalist dissident party Vetëvendosje, however, launched a petition against the agreement, which they said posed a risk that the ten municipalities would eventually break out of Kosovo and join Serbia. When the agreement was debated in parliament, the opposition threw eggs at the prime minister and released tear gas into the hall. In 2016, many demonstrations were also held against the agreement.

As early as the beginning of December 2016, none of the points in the agreement had been fully implemented. Behind the delay was a fear among the Kosovo government that the opposition would grow stronger, a fear that has been fueled after a imprisoned Vetëvendosje activist died in custody – suicide according to the authorities. There was also disagreement between Serbia and Kosovo over who should be considered to own what in terms of electrical and telecommunications installations. The issue of ownership has also come into focus since Kosovo decided to nationalize the Trepča mine in the north, which Serbia believes is Serbian.

Court for war crimes

The opposition also tried to stop the government’s proposal to set up a special court with the task of investigating possible crimes committed by the KLA during the Kosovo war 1998-1999. A large part of today’s political elite were members of the now disbanded guerrilla group. Only after the second attempt, and after pressure from mainly the EU and the US, did the controversial bill gain a majority in parliament. However, the court was relocated to The Hague in the Netherlands and all staff were picked up outside Kosovo for fear of being threatened. It began operations at the turn of the year 2016/2017 (see also Kosovo Democracy and Rights ).

Kosovo in the world

According to allpubliclibraries, more than 100 of the world’s nearly 200 countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, and Kosovo has been allowed to participate in various regional bodies, but Kosovo cannot become a member of the UN without the approval of the UN Security Council. This can not happen as Russia, which is on Serbia’s side in the conflict, is one of the permanent members of the Council and can veto it.

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has given Kosovo full membership and the football organizations Fifa and Uefa (football is big in Kosovo) have accepted Kosovo as a member. In both cases, Serbia has appealed the decision. There are plans to transform the former Kosovo Security Force, KSFF, into a Kosovo Army, KAF, with limited powers. For the time being, the NATO-led KFOR force, which was established after the war in 1999, stands at just over 4,000 men. The EU legal mission EULEX also remains, even though it now only has an advisory function.

An increasingly difficult economic situation with poverty, unemployment and a lack of faith in the future led in 2015 to tens of thousands of Kosovans leaving their country in the biggest wave of emigration since the Kosovo war 1998-1999. They applied to EU countries such as Germany (and also Sweden), where, however, they were usually not allowed to stay. At the same time, a growing number of Kosovars set out to fight in Syria and Iraq for terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (IS). In early 2015, Parliament adopted a law that could provide up to 15 years in prison for anyone who “joins or encourages participation in foreign armies or police forces”.

Relations with Serbia have deteriorated in recent years. At the end of 2018, Kosovo imposed 100% tariffs on goods from Serbia (and Bosnia). The main reason given was Belgrade’s aggressive campaign against Kosovo in international contexts.

The Conflict in Kosovo 4