Serbia-Kosovo Crisis

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One of the ongoing crises in contemporary politics is the independence crisis between Kosovo and Serbia. The struggle of these two states, which are part of the history of Yugoslavia, has a place in international politics. Tensions between the two states sometimes lead to violent struggles, as was the case before 1999. Nevertheless, the aim is to resolve this crisis in the political arena. Although the fact that both states are in the process of applying for membership of the European Union (EU) is promising for this process in the future, the conversation between Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on 7 September 2023 and the wounding of 93 KFOR soldiers by Serbia on 29 May 2023 show that tensions between the two states remain. [1]

The historical background of the crisis between Kosovo and Serbia dates back to the Balkans after the London Agreement of 1913. On 30 May 1913, with the Treaty of London, the region, which was called Kosovo Province at the time, was included in the Kingdom of Serbo-Croat-Slovenia, which was known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Near the end of World War II (1945), the Marxist-Leninist Tito overthrew the monarchy and proclaimed the Democratic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1943, thus laying the foundations for the communist era in Kosovo and Serbia. Following this event, it was decided to establish a federal state of Yugoslavia in 1946 and the name of the state was determined as the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Eventually, in 1963, the name was changed again to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Serbia and Kosovo were part of this federal state as the Socialist Republic of Serbia and the Autonomous Socialist Region of Kosovo until its dissolution.

The dissolution of Yugoslavia, which started in the early 1990s with the gradual weakening of Yugoslavia, was also reflected on the Serbian side. It first gained its independence in 1992 as Serbia and Montenegro with a kind of state union. Since 2006, it has existed as the Republic of Serbia.

In 1991, the process of secession from Yugoslavia, which started with Slovenia, manifested itself in Kosovo as well as Serbia. However, Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was not possible until 2008. Serbian oppression throughout Kosovo, on the other hand, did not bypass Kosovo, as Serbian nationalism increased after the 1995 attack on Bosnia-Herzegovina. It led to the outbreak of war between Serbia, which wanted to increase its hegemony within Kosovo, and the people of the region. The late 20th century war ended with the liberation of Kosovo from Serbian rule in 1999 following NATO-backed operations. . In 1999, the violent tensions between Serbia and Kosovo were resolved in favour of Kosovo by the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) mission. [2] The first elements of KFOR, which was adopted on 10 June 1999 pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, entered the borders of Kosovo on 12 June 1999. As a result of the struggle until 20 June 1999, Serbian forces withdrew and the region came under the control of Kosovo forces. The first element numbered about 50,000 men and women. This number gradually decreased in the following period, to 39,000 in 2002, 17,500 in 2003 and 3,500 todayKFOR continues to operate in Kosovo today.

Following the secession of the Kosovo region from the Serbs, the United Nations (UN) carried out a series of activities for the construction of a new state. The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK),[3] which coordinates UN activities in Kosovo, coordinates and cooperates with other international civilian and security organisations in the region It operates under Resolution 1244 of 1999 and is linked to KFOR, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which was deployed in 2008.[4]

The struggle between Kosovo and Serbia continues to this day. One of the most important reasons for the continuation of this attitude is that Serbia does not recognise the state of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008. It should be added that it is not only Serbia that does not recognise Kosovo as a state. Among those not recognised are states such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Romania. This is due to the fact that Serbia recognises Kosovo as part of its territory. In this context, Serbia is also influencing other states. On 22 August 2023, at a meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenski in Athens, recognition of Kosovo was the subject of negotiations. In the conversation between the two leaders, it was even proposed that Serbia provide arms to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine not recognising Kosovo.[5] In addition, the tension between the two countries is also the scene of protests.

In conclusion, the crisis between Serbia and Kosovo is an ongoing crisis from the past to the present. Although it continues on the political scene today, it has also led to military struggles in the past. From time to time, incidents between the two states escalate tensions. Events such as those that took place on 29 May 2023 in Kosovo are exacerbating the rift between the parties. Finally, the fact that both states are in the process of membership of the European Union suggests that this problem may be solved at a later date.

[1] “NATO Secretary General Meets Ms Osmani of Kosovo to Discuss Tensions in Northern Kosovo”, NATO,, (Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2023).

[2] “About KFOR”, JFC Naples NATO,, (Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2023).

[3] “About UNMIK”, UNMİK UN,, (Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2023).

[4] “About EULEX”, Eulex Kosovo,,60, (Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2023).

[5] Zoran Radosavljevic, “MEP: Serbia’s Vucic pressed Zelenskyy on Kosovo non-recognition”, Euractiv,, (Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2023).

Furkan DOĞDU
Furkan DOĞDU, 1999 yılında Samsun’da doğmuştur. 2022 yılında Ondokuz Mayıs Üniversitesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda yüksek lisans eğitimine Ondokuz Mayıs Üniversitesi Yakınçağ Tarihi ana bilim dalında devam etmekte olup Balkan Tarihi üzerine çalışmalar yürütmektedir.