The Republic of Kosovo has recently seen a surge of ethnic unrest, with clashes between ethnic Serbs and Kosovar police. This is particularly concerning given the background of the region; Kosovo was once part of the former Yugoslavia and is still often considered to be a contested territory. In response, Serbian forces have been placed on high alert.
On April 4 2021 Police in Kosovo used force to allow four ethnic Albanian mayors to take office after they won local elections. However, the vote was boycotted by most ethnic Serbs, who make up the majority of the region’s population. Since then, tensions have been high in the area.
In an effort to better understand the underlying causes of the unrest, as well as strategies to diffuse the tension, experts from various organisations have been consulted. Dan Ilazi, Head of research at the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies, noted that the international community should focus on facilitating a dialogue between the two sides. He said, “The political rearrangements that have taken place since the war ended must be respected, but it’s important to remember that these two communities – ethnic Serbs and Albanians – have a shared history. We must strive to ensure that this history is remembered and honored in a way that values both sides equally.”
Helena Ivanov, an Associate research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, believes that providing economic opportunities to the region could help ease tensions. She said, “The economic conditions in northern Kosovo are much worse than in other parts of the country. The government needs to invest in economic development programs to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.”
Giorgio Fruscione, a Research fellow at the Balkan desk of the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, believes that emphasis should be on restoring trust between the two communities. He said “Dialogue and trust are key here. We need to provide platforms for both sides to come together, express their grievances, and work towards finding solutions that benefit both communities.”
In order to avoid further violence and unrest in Kosovo, it is essential that the international community takes timely action to address the underlying issues driving the tension between ethnic Serbs and Kosovars. Dialogue is a crucial component of this process, and it is necessary to ensure that the economic and cultural differences between the two communities are respected. Moreover, economic investment in the region is necessary to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. Only through joint efforts can peace and stability in the region be restored.