Kosovo-Serbia Tension and the Impact of Regional-Global Actors

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After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the influence of socialist movements in Europe was largely broken. Yugoslavia, despite all the resistance of the central government, could not escape its dissolution. Indeed, throughout history, the influence of Serbian nationalism in the region has not lost its importance. In addition, various nations such as the Czechs, Bosniaks, Croatians and Albanians fought for their independence.

Kosovo has experienced various problems both during and after its establishment. The heterogeneity of the demographic structure of the region is at the heart of these problems. Because the Serbian population and its influence in the country are obvious. Although the government has taken various steps to strengthen the centralized system, it has encountered many obstacles. Although tensions in the region have eased over time, it is easy for a small spark to grow.

The recent license plate crisis in Kosovo has been met with great discontent by Serbs in the country, who have taken part in various protests.[1] Although there is a desire to reduce tensions and move towards normalization, the process is being undermined. This is because Serbia supports the establishment of the Community of Serbian Municipalities, while Albanians believe that this would divide the state.

Lately, things have been difficult to control. In particular, the steps taken by the Kosovo government provoked the Serbs and caused them to take to the streets.[2] As such, peace in the region has been disrupted and security concerns have arisen. The statements and steps taken by Serbia did not reduce the tension; on the contrary, they fueled it further. Moreover, Belgrade wanted to increase its troops in the region in order to control the process better.

At a time when European states are concerned about their energy and security, it is clear that they do not want an internal tension that would perhaps relive the past. No counrty wants that, epecially when Russia’s religious authority over the Orthodox is so important that it wants to intimidate the hegemonic powers.

Today, the United States of America (USA), whose hegemony is in danger, is afraid of losing its influence in Europe. In addition, the European Union (EU) also wants to focus on solving its energy problems. However, it is very difficult to ignore the tension in question. This is because the USA has openly expressed its discontent with Serbia’s deployment of troops to northern Kosovo.[3] Meanwhile the EU has accelerated Kosovo’s EU accession process.[4] Thus, the EU wants to strengthen its policies towards the parties to avoid these concerns and encourage Kosovo to exercise restraint through a voluntary transfer of sovereignty.

Although various measures were attempted to ease tensions in Kosovo, these measures were not very successful, especially due to the encouragement Serbs living in the region have received from Serbia. The anger towards the arrest of Dejan Pantić, one of the main triggers of the events, is becoming a symbol.

Serbs in the region, who do not believe that Kosovo is independent from Serbia, insisted on early elections. Fearing a public backlash, the Kosovo administration postponed the local elections to a date later than December 18-25, 2022.[5] In this case, it can be argued that Serbia, in particular, wants to increase its influence and to bind the Serbs in Kosovo to itself by taking away their autonomy.

Although Serbia has resorted to various means, it has not achieved what it wanted. Because the USA, which wants to protect its investments in the region and does not want to lose its leverage against Russia, has shown that it will not allow a turmoil in the region.  This is because NATO has insisted that it is focusing on the Kosovo issue, which is one of the key factors for the Western Balkans.

Kosovo has taken various measures to calm the situation. In order to prevent the developments in the region from getting out of control, the Pristina administration has increased its security forces.[6] In addition, it has resorted to new solutions by reviewing its relations with both NATO and the EU. Because Kosovo, which is relatively weak economically and militarily , is aware of the threat behind the tensions.

It also shows the international community that it will not give up its sovereign rights easily. Recognizing the impact of international recognition, Kosovo uses public diplomacy quite effectively. In particular, the importance it attaches to religious diplomacy and humanitarian diplomacy, which are instruments of soft power, will help it create a public opinion in its favor.

It would be biased to say that every step taken by Pristina is correct. However, given the steps and statements taken by the EU, it cannot be said that it considers the Serbian government, which is trying to protect Serbs who do not feel safe, to be justified. According to the EU, Serbia does not share common security concepts and does not agree with the sanctions against Russia.

In conclusion, it is clear that the tension in the region will not go away easily. It can also be stated that the normalization of relations between the two states has been shelved, at least for a while. However, the steps taken by NATO and the EU also reveal that they will not allow tensions to rise easily.

[1] “Kosova’da Plakası Değiştirilen 4 Araç Yakıldı”, TRT Haber,, (Date of Accession:16.12.2022).

[2] “Kosova’nın Kuzeyi Hala Abluka Altında, Barikatlarda Gece Barışçıl Geçti”, Online Vijesti 25,, (Date of Accession: 11.12.2022).

[3] “ABD Elçisi, Washington’un Kosova’daki Sırp Birliklerine Karşı ‘Kategorik’ Olduğunu Söyledi”, Exit News,, (Date of Accession: 14.12.2022).

[4] “Tarihi Adım”: Kosova’nın AB Üyeliği İçin İmzalanan Başvuru”, Online Vijesti 25,, (Date of Accession: 14.12.2022).

[5] “Kuzey Kosova’da Yerel Seçimler Etnik Gerilimler Nedeniyle Ertelendi”, Republica English,, (Date of Accession: 11.12.2022).

[6] “Kosova Polisi Kuzeydeki Varlığını Artırıyor”, Exit News,, (Date of Accession: 09.12.2022).