Deutsche Welle | Tension builds in Kosovo ahead of Serbian vote
Tensions are flaring up again as minority Serbs who live in the northern part of majority ethnic-Albanian Kosovo intend to take part in Serbia’s general elections set for May 6 despite strong opposition from Pristina.
Uncertainty prevails in Kosovo these days. At the beginning of April, a man was killed by a bomb attack in northern Mitrovica, while several of his family members were seriously injured. He was a Kosovo Albanian living in the Serb-dominated northern part of the divided city. The investigation has not yet led to the perpetrators or the reasons behind the attack.
Rumors, however, were quick to spread: the attack had been allegedly committed by radical Serbs, who want to expel “Albanians” from “their” part of the city. Since then, tensions in northern Kosovo have intensified.
The mayor of Mitrovica, Avni Kastrati, called on his fellow ethnic Albanians to prepare themselves to protect their families. In Kosovo, such a call means one thing: “Keep your weapons ready.” And since then, Kosovo media have reported on unidentified armed groups appearing suddenly in northern Kosovo, where more than 40,000 Serbs live.
Kosovo Serbs, backed by Belgrade, reject Kosovo’s 2008 secession and effectively live as if still in part of Serbia.
Belgrade lost control of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO bombed Serbia to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces fighting a two-year counter-insurgency war.
On May 6, local, parliamentary and presidential elections are taking place in Serbia. Tensions in Kosovo at the time of important events in Serbia are nothing new. But, according to Sabine Freizer of the International Crisis Group (ICG), the situation is particularly unstable this time.
"Until the end of March, Serbia and Kosovo participated in EU-mediated talks which resulted in some important successes," Freizer said. "This dialogue was cut short because of the forthcoming Serbian elections. At the same time, the security situation has been rapidly deteriorating, particularly in northern Kosovo."