This past weekend, 50,000 Serbs living in northern Kosovo derailed a plan structured by the European Union, Serbia and Kosovo to integrate northern Kosovo with the rest of the country and to give Serbia its sought-after membership in the European Union.
During the late 1990s, Albanian insurgents in the majority-Albanian autonomous Serbian region of Kosovo began to wage war against the Serbian government, for what Albanians saw as violent oppression of the minority. Serbian government retaliated against the insurgents with brutal crackdowns. NATO and the Western nations interfered with an 11-week bombing campaign of Serbian military targets. In the end, Serbia lost de facto control of Kosovo, and in 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Belgrade (capital of Serbia).
Five years later, the Serbian government had finally agreed to a European Union-brokered treaty, in which Serbia would abandon any sovereignty claims to Kosovo in exchange for membership in the European Union. As part of the deal, the Serbian government has encouraged the 50,000 Serbs living in northern Kosovo, mostly in the northern Mitrovica, to participate in local council elections held this past weekend.
Hardliners in Mitrovica, however, had other ideas, as masked individuals attacked polling stations and openly intimidated Kosovar Serbs from participating in the elections. Although there have been no reports of any deaths, dozens of individuals have been injured in attacks staged by Serbian nationalists. Voter turnout was lower than 10% in Mitrovica, and approximately 20% in the rest of northern Kosovo.
This violent result puts the deal so painfully reached by the European Union and Serbia under serious question.
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