Rorly Sherwen analyses the nature of the violent protests in Kosovo, by explaining the ethnic differences amongst the participants involved
The outbreak of violence witnessed by Kosovo on May 11th, 2015 in the town of Klina followed another conflict near the Kosovo-Macedonian border, which had allegedly been sparked by terrorists of ethnic Albanian origins from Kosovo. The former violent manifestation was affiliated to the shootings on the 9th and 10th of May earlier this month in Macedonia, which resulted in an armed conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Macedonian police.
Klina is presently witnessing a spillover of increased internal violence on the streets, in a context where the target of the unrest remains the ethnic group of Serbian returnees, consisting of individuals fleeing from their native country during the Kosovo armed war and relocating themselves in Albania. Unfortunately, a number of Serbians experienced brutal attacks and robbery at home. Abandoned Serb houses have been stoned, resulting in fears to return due to the unwelcoming status quo associated with the ethnic group. Non-Albanian natives living in Kosovo witnessed similar repercussions of the conflict.
The unrest, which continued until May 20th, 2015, saw the Head of the Kosovo’s Administrative District Srdjan Petkovic make the following claim: “These challenges always occur during times of tension, regardless of whether it relates to a sports match or a political conflict, as the recent incident in Macedonia shows. The Serbs feel intimidated and demand that the perpetrators should be found and brought to justice. We seek protection from representatives of the international community, because we feel unsafe in our own city. Jennifer Brush, the Deputy Special Representative for UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) consequently expressed concern over the Serbian returnees’ attacks during the past few weeks in Klina. These attacks have not yet been deemed “serious crimes”, whereby international institutions would be forced to intervene. Instead, the matter is to be dealt with as a domestic issue first and foremost.
Another incident on the 25th of May saw an open fire attack on the Czech Police unit in Northern Kosovo at noon. Spokesperson Jana Macalikova commented on “each vehicle being hit twice.” These spontaneous outbreaks place Kosovo in an extremely vulnerable position within the international system. Fortunately, the European Union Rule of Law in Kosovo works hand in hand with the Kosovo police to find the culprits of this failed attempt to harm the Czech Police unit.
Due to the Macedonian gunfight, a similar situation is likely to occur in Kosovo, as attested by Kosovo’s Special Prosecutor Ali Rexha: “We will do our best to prevent any such events from taking place, by tracking down the individuals involved and their subsequent plans”. The statement itself appears precautionary, especially since government institutions have been advised to prepare for the worst possible scenario. Recent protests in Pristina, organised by relatives of Albanians living in Kosovo demand for the release of the prisoners. Despite the absence of violence, governmental institutions have been carefully watching the situation, in an attempt to prevent further escalations.
Kosovo’s ability to contain its domestic affairs together while surpassing its long shared history of conflict and disputes with Serbia clearly poses a problem for the country. At the recent briefing, the UN’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo Farid Zarif put forward a request to the United Nations Security Council Session. On the 26th May 2015, the official described previous meetings between Serbia and Kosovo as slow, given that “steady leadership is required from both Pristina and Belgrade in order to enable progress.”
The presence of clashing ethnic identities remains a persistent issue in Kosovo and potential uprisings cannot be fully ruled out. Conflict between values lies at the heart of ethnic groups, hoping to demonstrate a position of legitimacy and space within Kosovo, whether by undertaking violent action or by triggering outbreaks in the north, hence deeming the northern border more prone to armed conflict and vulnerability. Disputes with neighboring nations such as Serbia, Albania and Macedonia are difficult to suppress, given the unpredictable nature of domestic outbreaks of violence. Direct observation over the domestic issues faced by Kosovo remains a pivotal step to be undertaken, in order to ensure the sustainability of the nation at large and its long-term development.