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Western Balkans: heightened tensions in Kosovo will require further efforts by the international community

Western Balkans: heightened tensions in Kosovo will require further efforts by the international community

The unresolved issue of Kosovo’s statehood and the frozen conflict are causing tensions in the Western Balkans. Pristina’s drive to assert its authority over Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo and Serbian protests in 2023 have escalated into violent clashes, including dozens of NATO peacekeepers’ (KFOR) injuries. An armed attack by a Serbian paramilitary group against Kosovo police has also increased tensions. KFOR forces have been reinforced in northern Kosovo due to incidents and the risk of escalation.

Pristina accuses Serbia of seeking to destabilise northern Kosovo, while Belgrade widely uses the narrative of persecution of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. Serbia’s close partnership with and energy dependence on Russia, which allows the latter to maintain its influence in the Balkans and use it to increase its geopolitical confrontation with the West, also pose long-term challenges.

In a context of high mutual mistrust, no breakthrough is possible in the near term. Belgrade and Pristina are engaged in an EU-mediated dialogue because they are seeking EU membership and are under international pressure, but are not ready to truly normalise relations and implement agreements. Peace and stability in the Western Balkans will therefore require further international diplomatic, economic, and military measures.

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