The situation in Kosovo threatened to come to a head in late 2022, with roadblocks set up by ethnic Serbs in the northern part of the country.
They were outraged by the arrest of former Serbian policeman Dejan Pantic in Kosovo. After pressure from both the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU), Pantic was eventually placed under house arrest in order to calm tensions, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic promised on December 29th that all barriers and roadblocks would be removed.
The flare-up of tensions was similar to that in November after hundreds of ethnic Serb police officers, judges, and prosecutors protested Pristina’s decision to ban license plates issued by Belgrade in Kosovo.
This latest crisis has even affected the higher echelons of NATO, with Serbia at one point requesting the peacekeeping mission of the military organization Kosovo Force (KFOR) for permission to deploy its troops in Kosovo.
While Brussels is worried about the situation and the almost constant tensions in recent months, several diplomats understand this as an indication that both Belgrade and Pristina are approaching some kind of political agreement, which will probably happen in the next few months.
The two countries have been locked in an EU-led dialogue aimed at normalizing bilateral relations since 2011, a process that has produced few concrete results in recent years.
However, it seems that the changing security situation in Europe since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine is changing the parameters.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, European diplomats noted that Serbia, which has so far refused to comply with any EU sanctions against its traditional ally Russia, is feeling pressure because the Kremlin is mired in war and suffering huge losses in Ukraine. This undoubtedly contributed to the fact that the EU is not enthusiastic about letting Serbia into the EU.
For Kosovo, meanwhile, small steps are being taken to get closer to Brussels. At the end of the year, the EU member states finally agreed to give the green light for the liberalization of the EU visa regime for Kosovo citizens until January 2024, and Pristina officially submitted its application for EU membership.
It is expected that the European Commission will consider Kosovo’s application for a long time, while five EU member states still do not recognize the country’s independence, Radio Slobodna Evropa reports.