In September 2021, the Kosovo authorities forced Serbian vehicles entering Kosovo to change their temporary license plates, and Serb residents in northern Kosovo blocked roads to protest. The picture shows that in October 2021, the “special police force” maintained order after the roadblock was removed.
The Kosovo authorities originally planned to implement new regulations on license plate changes and entry documents from August 1 this year, but they were protested and boycotted by Serb residents in northern Kosovo. On July 31, Serbs in northern Kokoro used heavy machinery and trucks to set up roadblocks to confront the police, and the situation in Kokoro suddenly became tense. Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis, the Balkan wars are looming, and it seems that conflict is imminent.
The essence of the license plate dispute is a dispute over sovereignty
After the boycott of the new license plate regulations in Kosovo, Kosovo “Prime Minister” Kurti issued a statement on July 31, strongly condemning “the act of armed men blocking roads and opening fire in northern Kosovo”. Serbia is also highly concerned about the situation in northern Kosovo. President Vucic met with military representatives to discuss military options that can be made in response to the “provocation” by the Kosovo authorities. Finally, under pressure from the United States and Europe, the Kuomintang authorities decided to postpone the implementation of the new regulations until September 1, and a looming crisis seemed to be temporarily resolved. However, the northern part of Kosovo is still not calm. On August 10, Kurti said in an interview that the possibility of renewed tension or even conflict could not be ruled out.
This is not the first time the license plate scandal has occurred. In September 2021, the Serbian authorities forced Serbian vehicles entering Serbia to change their temporary license plates. Serb residents in northern Serbia blocked roads to express protests, which led to tensions between the two sides, and a temporary compromise was reached through EU mediation. The source of tension in the north of Kosovo this time is still the issue of vehicle license plates. According to the new regulations, the license plates of Serb residents in northern Koko must be changed to Koko license plates; Serb nationals entering Koko need to change their passports to temporary ID cards. In fact, whether it is the dispute over the license plate or the ID card, the core is the dispute over the sovereignty of Kosovo. The issuance of license plates and the issuance of ID cards are both state actions, and the authorities of Kuwait want to exercise “sovereignty”, but Serbia wants to prevent it.
Balkan geopolitical conundrum
Thirty years have passed since Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1992, and the status of Kosovo is still the biggest geopolitical problem plaguing the Western Balkans. Kosovo, with a majority ethnic Albanian population, was once an autonomous province of the Federal Republic of Serbia in Yugoslavia, but its autonomy was revoked in 1989. After the drastic changes in Eastern Europe in 1989, nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe was rampant, and Albanian separatism was on the rise. With the disintegration of the federal state of Yugoslavia, the conflict in Kosovo has intensified, and the relationship between the Albanians and the Serbs is highly tense. After 1997, the “Kosovo Liberation Army” became increasingly active, and violent attacks against the Serbian military and police occurred frequently. In 1998, the Yugoslavia hit the “Kosovo Liberation Army” with heavy blows, while the West internationalized the Kosovo issue. In 1999, NATO bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days in the name of “humanitarian intervention”. As a result of the Kosovo War, Serbia lost de facto control of Kosovo, which became a UN mandated area under the protection of NATO. In February 2008, instigated by Western powers, Kosovo unilaterally declared “independence”, setting a bad precedent in the history of international relations and creating the biggest geopolitical problem in the Balkans.
Since Kosovo unilaterally declared “independence” from Serbia in February 2008, although it has been recognized by more than 100 countries, Russia and China do not recognize it, nor do EU member states such as Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Cyprus and Greece. admit. Kosovo after “independence” is committed to “nation-building”, and currently has a “parliament”, “government” and “judiciary”, and also seeks “equivalence” with Serbia in the issue of license plates and ID cards. But Serbia has always insisted that Kosovo’s “independence” is illegal, emphasizing that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia. The preamble of the Serbian Constitution in 2006 clearly stipulates that “the province of Kosovo and Metohija is an inalienable part of Serbia’s territory and enjoys a high degree of autonomy within the sovereign state of Serbia”.
Secco conflict is difficult to resolve
In recent years, despite the good offices of various parties, the solution to the Kosovo issue is still unclear. Serbia and Kosovo are seriously lacking in mutual trust, and the confrontation on the status of Kosovo is difficult to reconcile. On April 20 this year, the UN Security Council discussed the work of the UN mission in Kosovo, and the representatives of the two sides of Seko quarreled. Serakovic, the foreign minister of Serbia, pointed out that the Kuomintang authorities “ignored the political representatives of Serbs” and made decisions without their participation, while targeting Serb leaders through “political investigations and judicial procedures”. “Our people made the choice a long time ago to become part of the West, while our northern neighbor Serbia is still a satellite of Russia,” Guevara Schwartz, the “Minister of Foreign Affairs”, said. Invited by Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Serbian President Vucic and Ko “Prime Minister” Kurti met in Brussels on August 18. The two sides failed to reach any agreement on the “license plate dispute”, but agreed Keep in touch.
Since 2011, under the mediation of the European Union, Serbia and Kosovo have held many talks, but no solution to the problem has been formed. In April 2013, Seko signed the “Brussels Agreement”, which seemed to be an agreement, but it caused new disputes. The Brussels Agreement is regarded as an international agreement by Kosovo and approved by the Kosovo “Parliament”, while the Serbian side believes that the agreement is not an international agreement and therefore does not require parliamentary approval. In addition, the agreement involved the creation of a union of Serb municipalities, but in 2015 Kosovo’s “Constitutional Court” ruled that the union of Serbs was “unconstitutional”. So far, the Serb Municipal Union has not been formed. In November 2021, Kosovo’s “Prime Minister” Kurti reiterated that President Vucic wanted to achieve the “Bosnianization of Kosovo” through the Serb Municipal Union, and Kosovo would not agree to form this body.
On the issue of “building an army” in Kosovo, Seko is even more incompatible. In December 2018, the Kosovo “government” announced that it would turn the “Kosovo Security Forces” into a “full army”. There are no provisions on the army in the “constitution” of the Republic of Korea, so the establishment of the army must “amend the constitution”, and this requires a two-thirds majority of the parliament to pass, including a two-thirds majority representing minority members. However, there are ten Serb minority seats in the “Parliament”, so it must be difficult to obtain the approval of the Serb parliamentarians for the establishment of an army. Serbia is firmly opposed to the “army building” in Kosovo. Serbian Defense Minister Stefanovic recently emphasized that “there is no international document that allows Pristina (Kosovo authorities) to form an army on the territory of our southern province.”
The situation in Kosovo suddenly became tense, and both NATO and Russia issued statements declaring their positions. The statement issued by NATO on August 1 declared that “the NATO-led KFOR mission is closely monitoring the situation and is ready to intervene if its own stability is threatened.” Russia expressed its support for Serbia, and its foreign ministry spokesman Zaha Rova said, “We call on Pristina (Korean authorities), as well as the United States and the European Union that support it, to stop provocation and respect the rights of Kosovo Serbs.”
In fact, the renewed tension in Kosovo shows that Kosovo is taking advantage of the Ukraine crisis. The new geopolitical changes resulting from the escalation attempt to repackage the narrative of the Seko conflict, shaping the Seko conflict as a “pro-West and anti-Western conflict”. But against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis, Europe cannot afford to rekindle war in the Balkans. The US and EU are deeply involved in the Western Balkans and will not let the situation spiral out of control. Therefore, the current tension in Seko relations is unlikely to evolve into a huge geopolitical crisis. However, until the status of Kosovo is finally resolved, the Seko friction will continue, and the international governance of Kosovo will always be a challenge for the international community.