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The Western Balkans Back In The Spotlight As Kosovo-Serbia Tensions Escalate

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The Western Balkans Back In The Spotlight As Kosovo-Serbia Tensions Escalate
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You can read this article in German: LINK.

The Western Balkans are heating up, as tensions between Kosovo and Serbia are escalating rapidly in recent days.

It all began with Pristina forcing cars with Serbian registration plates to change them to temporary ones when entering Kosovo. It was allegedly a “reciprocal measure”, to what remains unclear.

The registration plate decision led to hundreds of ethnic Serbs staging daily protests against the authority of the Albanian-led Kosovo government. In the areas bordering Serbia, there have reportedly been attempts to entirely reject the government’s rule.

Policemen were dispatched to the area to establish security.

Regardless of all measures, hundreds of Serbs in Kosovo have been protesting and blocking traffic with trucks on the roads leading to two border crossings.

In response to Kosovo’s registration plate ruling and the police deployment, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ordered a heightened regime for Belgrade’s army and police units along the border.

Serbian fighter jets could be seen flying again over the border region after several sorties.

The situation is quite sensitive, as there are a plethora of interests that collide in both Serbia and Kosovo. It is yet another impromptu standoff between Russia and the collective West.

The European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell urged Serbia and Kosovo to reduce tensions. That was all of it, since the bloc has other things to worry about as winter nears.

The first one to contact the Serbian President was NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who also spoke to the Kosovar Prime Minister.

Vucic has revealed himself as a rather pro-Western tool, and has even claimed that in the case of an escalation he would call for KFOR and NATO to protect the ethnic Serbs. These forces are primarily American, Canadian and Polish, the main parties responsible for most of the tragic issues in the region.

This claim is mixed with a significant anti-Russian hysteria campaign in the Serbian information sphere, which become even more intense after the Russian military attaché visited the border crossing. There are evident attempts at turning the issue from a standoff between Serbian and Kosovar authorities into an incident between “Russia against Kosovo and Serbia”.

Finally, it is noteworthy that the escalation takes place just days before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Moscow to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Syria’s Idlib.

Ankara has a strong influence over the Albanian-led government, and the tensions may be a way for Erdogan to demonstrate that Moscow may have Turkish-orchestrated problems even away from the Middle East.

Still, this does provide Russia with an opportunity to swoop in and prove itself as a reliable ally of the Serbians, after the EU, NATO and others show that they are unwilling to provide tangible support. After all, it is hard to imagine that NATO member country Albania would move against the Albanian-led government in Kosovo and in Serbia’s favor.

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