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Germany warns Kosovo-Serbia tensions threatens EU accession

October 6, 2023

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the European Union is deeply concerned about the violence that has made tensions between Kosovo and Serbia soar. She said the KFOR peacekeeping force would be boosted.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks with other colleagues during a summit in Tirana, Albania
Baerbock, who was in the Albanian capital held 'intensive' talks on the sidelines about security in the regionImage: Franc Zhurda/AP/picture alliance

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned that  Kosovo-Serbia tensions were threatening the process for the Western Balkan nations' potential accession to the European Union.

"The foundation for mobility in the region is security and safety," Baerbock said on Friday.

The tensions have overshadowed a foreign ministers' meeting to prepare for the summit on the so-called Berlin Process next week.

Citing a "backlash in security" in recent weeks, Baerbock said, "It is clear to everyone in the region that you can only create a strong region here if there is security and freedom and in peaceful coexistence."

The Berlin Process is an initiative by Germany and France to encourage the six Western Balkan nations of Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Albania to become EU members.

Baerbock, who was in the Albanian capital of Tirana on Friday, said despite the security challenges she wanted to see an accelerated EU accession process.

"Russia's attack on Ukraine makes EU enlargement to include the Western Balkans a geopolitical necessity," Baerbock said.

More KFOR peacekeepers to Kosovo

Tensions between Belgrade and Pristina soared in late September when Kosovo police were involved in a shootout with around 30 armed Serbs who barricaded themselves in a Serbian Orthodox monastery.

A Kosovo policeman and three of the attackers were killed in the incident.

Baerbock said the NATO-led peacekeeping force, KFOR will be reinforced in Kosovo.

"Because security is so crucial for the Berlin Process, and because security is so crucial for the further European steps, and because we have seen how quickly tensions, which we had actually hoped to overcome, can rise again, we have also decided together as NATO countries that with regard to the presence of KFOR, we will further strengthen our presence here," she said.

Kosovo seeks NATO assistance as ethnic tensions rise

The German Defence Ministry announced that it would send more soldiers to Kosovo as of April and that the decision was made before the recent violence.

Calls for renewed talks

Kosovo's foreign minister, Donika Gervalla-Schwarz, said the West should impose fresh sanctions on Serbia following the violence

"I expect a clear stance from the ministers present to condemn Serbia's aggression and also to decide on concrete steps," Gervalla said in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF.

Her German colleague, however, appealed for fresh talks between Serbia and Kosovo.

"The key to resolving the conflict is in Belgrade and Pristina, though some may not be pleased to hear that," she said.

A call echoed by the commander of KFOR, Maj. Gen. Angelo Michele Ristuccia, who called on Kosovo and Serbia to return to the negotiating table.

He urged both countries to "refrain from inflammatory and counterproductive rhetoric and help to create the necessary conditions for lasting security."

lo/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters)