Location: Kosovo/Serbian Border Area
Parties Involved: Kosovo Military/Government, Serbian Military/Government, the European Union, NATO, and the UN.
Road blocks, protests, and small arms fire have been reported over the past 24 hours in northern Kosovo.
Serbia has summoned its ministers to review the security situation on its border with Kosovo.
The EU, NATO, and the US have all voiced their backing of the UN mandated KFOR mission, which has the authority to intervene if the situation warrants it.
Airlines, companies, and bordering nations should keep a close watch on current events, as this flare up is only one of half a dozen similar incidents over the past 12 months.
Ethnic Serbs in the region were outraged by the arrest of a Serbian policeman and have put up road blockades at the border crossings from Kosovo to Serbia on 10/12/2022, as a sign of protest to the escalating tensions.
In the night of 10/12/2022, Kosovan law enforcement was reportedly attacked by a gunman at one of the blockades and a stun-grenade was thrown at a car belonging to the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). This was followed by an individual being detained by Kosovan authorities.
Movement of Serbian armored personnel carriers and support vehicles were reported by OSINT channels in the late hours of 11/12/2022. While not unusual, their direction of travel indicated that these vehicles were moving towards the Kosovo border.
Shortly after, in the city of Mitrovica [West of Prestina], authorities reported various small scale explosions and clashes with police.
The Serbian government has called an emergency session on the 12/12/2022 of its ministers to review the ongoing security situation on its border with Kosovo.
Meanwhile, KFOR, the EU, and the United States, have reiterated their commitment to maintaining peace within the region; and KFOR is considering measures that are inclusive of forcefully removing the blockades created within the next 48 hours.
The relationship between Kosovo and Serbia is complex and strained. The majority of the population in this region is Albanian (1.2 million), with a small ethically Serb population of (120,000), many of whom do not recognize Kosovo's independence. This has led to disputes over control of the border, including a war in 1998/1999, with both Kosovo and Serbia asserting their authority over the region since the fall of Yugoslavia.
Since 2008, Kosovo has been a partially recognized state in the Balkan region of Europe. However, Serbia continues to claim it as an autonomous province.
The events over the weekend of 10/12/2022 are one of many small-scale flare ups over the past months, with the most prominent blockades and the use of small arms fire taking place in May and late July, 2022. These were related to license plate regulation disputes.
With the events on 11/12/2022-12/12/2022, the small scale explosions that were heard are most likely to be from fireworks and flashbangs being used in the protests.
This is of importance as there is much misinformation being spread on the movements of Kosovo, KFOR, and Serbian Security Forces, about what their intentions/actions are, and if/when shootings have occurred.
What is known is that KFOR and Kosovan law enforcement are on high alert for any potential short term escalation. This could have consequences for the borders of regional players, such as Croatia, Albania and North Macedonia.
If KFOR decides to intervene and remove the road blockades, they might be met with resistance from armed ethnically Serb groups, which would lead to further escalation.
In addition, depending on how far escalations go, there is a genuine threat to civil aviation as Serbia possesses Surface-to-Air missiles with a range of 27 km; such as the Chinese made FK-3.
The current situation on the ground in Kosovo shows the hallmark signs of similar escalations over the past few months. While blockades, small scale protests, and limited use of small arms fire may seem worrying to most, it is far more concerning that the timespan between these events is shortening. It stands now within reason that tensions between Serbia and Kosovo are spiraling, and are worth keeping a close watch on. The main risks, apart from a conflict breaking out, are anchored on road access throughout the region, airspace security, and the border security of countries neighboring the region.
For more in-depth Sitreps, analyses, or bespoke advice on the security and safety concerns regarding this region, or other areas across the globe, please contact Dyami at +31 30 207 2120 or through our webpage.