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News 16 Feb 17

Croatia, Albania Complain of Serbia's Nationalism to NATO

The defence ministers of Croatia and Albania have written to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to complain about the “nationalistic rhetoric” of Serbian politicians towards Kosovo.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Damir Krsticevic (left) and US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis at the NATO meeting in Brussels. Photo: Beta

Croatian defence minister Damir Krsticevic and his Albanian counterpart Mimi Kodheli have penned a joint letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, complaining about Serbia’s stance towards Kosovo, the Croatian defence ministry confirmed to BIRN.

“The letter expressed support for good neighbourly relations, regional cooperation and inclusiveness, but also expressed concern about recent developments that could affect the security of Kosovo and security in the wider context,” the ministry told BIRN.

It added that the letter called on NATO to “keep attention on maintaining the security of Kosovo and consider concrete steps to strengthen the alliance’s efforts in building local institutional capacity”.

At the end of their letter, the ministers wrote that Croatia and Albania have already lent support to the conversion of Kosovo’s security forces, currently lightly armed, into a fully fledged army – an initiative not supported by Kosovo Serbs.

During a meeting in Brussels of the defence ministers of NATO’s member states on Wednesday and Thursday, both ministers also condemned “nationalistic rhetoric from Serb politicians and concrete actions on the border”, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The Albanian defence ministry told Reuters that ministers from Croatia and Albania believed that such actions are aimed at encroaching on “the sovereignty of the Republic of Kosovo and destabilising the security situation in the Western Balkans”.

Media also reported on Thursday that both ministers have requested revisions to the Operational Plan for the peace-keeping mission in Kosovo, but did not specify how.

In January, the traditionally rocky relationship between Serbia and Kosovo worsened when a train travelling from Belgrade to the northern Kosovo town of Kosovska Mitrovica was stopped at the border by Kosovo border police.

The first train service to travel for 18 years to Kosovska Mitrovica, a town shared by ethnic Serbs and Albanians, bore the message “Kosovo is Serbia” in 21 different languages, including Albanian, which was widely seen as a provocation.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic then accused Kosovo of planning to attack the train at the border with special police forces.

Meanwhile, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic was still more direct, saying the appearance of special police from Pristina in the north of Kosovo meant that “Albanians want war”.

“We don’t seek war, but we’ll send the army if necessary to protect Serbs from potential killings. If they [Albanians] will kill Serbs, we [Serbia] will send the army, we’ll go [to Kosovo to war]. And I'll go, it wouldn’t be the first time,” he threatened.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci replied that Kosovo “respects free movement of people and goods”, but added that a train covered in nationalistic messages contrary to the constitution and laws of Kosovo was “totally unacceptable”.

After the war of 1999 between Serbian forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army, the country declared its independence in 2008.

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