Trouble brews in the Balkans
Is Europe’s tinderbox once again set to explode?
Tensions are running high in Kosovo after three people were killed in a gun battle in a monastery in Leposavic, near the Serbian border. About thirty armed men stormed the building following a battle with police at a road blockade near the village of Banska, in which one officer was killed. Police managed to regain control of the monastery, arrested 6 gunmen, and found "an “extraordinarily large amount of weaponry and ammunition, explosives.”
According to Prime Minister Albin Kurti, police were attacked by "professionals, with military and police background" and police said they had used "an arsenal of firearms, including hand grenades and shoulder-fired missiles.” Kurti blamed "Serbia-sponsored criminals" for the attack. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucicspoke later on Sunday, condemned the attack but accused the Kosovo authorities of “brutal” treatment of the Kosovo Serbs.
Violence has been escalating following the Kosovo government’s decision to install ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-majority municipalities in May. Demonstrations ensued, including one in which thirty NATO peacekeepers were injured.
This latest incident comes one week after EU-mediated talks designed to normalize relations between Serbia and its former province ended in stalemate. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008, a decade after a bloody war with Serbia that claimed 10,000 lives, but Belgrade has since refused to recognize the country.As a means of cooling the temperature, Brussels warned both countries that unless they put their differences aside and abide by the EU’s ten-point plan to end the latest round of tensions, they will not be allowed entry into the EU. If what happened this weekend is any indication, however, that goal is still a long way off.