Figures from Britain and the US state their opposition to a ‘Belgrade-centred policy for the Balkans’ amid continued tensions.
The West is failing to protect Kosovo from Serbian and Russian aggression because of its naive and biased policies, senior politicians from Britain and the US have warned.
In a letter shared with The Telegraph, they said that the West’s approach to nation-building in Kosovo was “flawed” and will leave its Balkan ally vulnerable.
“Kosovo is a sovereign country and functioning democracy,” the 54 politicians said. “Attempts to disrupt democratic elections in Kosovo by Serbia must be criticised publicly as foreign interference.”
The letter was addressed to James Cleverly, UK Foreign Minister, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, and Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief.
Tensions have soared in northern Kosovo this year, with Serbia accusing the Kosovan government of “silent ethnic cleansing” and the Kosovan government accusing Serbia of stoking unrest.
Lawmakers push each other as a brawl breaks out in Kosovo’s parliament in July 2023
Lawmakers push each other as a brawl breaks out in Kosovo’s parliament in July 2023 CREDIT: Ridvan Slivova/AP
Western diplomats have also said that Russia’s war in Ukraine has exacerbated differences. Serbia is a traditional Russian ally even though it has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine without joining Western sanctions. Kosovo has been a staunch Western ally since Nato backed it in a war in 1998-99.
Violence broke out in May between Serbians and Kosovan police and Nato-led Kfor peacekeepers after disputed elections. Serbia even briefly put its army on alert.
“The lack of pressure placed on Serbia following the arbitrary detention of three Kosovan police officers and failure to hold to account those responsible for attacks on Kfor highlights the current lack of even-handedness,” the politicians’ letter said.
Serbia and a handful of European countries don’t recognise Kosovo as an independent state since the war that killed more than 10,000 people, mainly ethnic Albanians.
‘Still being too soft on Serbs’
The EU has sent top diplomats to Belgrade and Pristina since the unrest in May and the US suspended Serbia from a military exercise and also sanctioned the head of its security services for promoting the Kremlin’s interests, but the politicians’ letter said that the West was still being too soft on the Serbs.
“Recent discoveries of arms caches in northern Kosovo and reports of continued weapons smuggling across the Serbia-Kosovo border highlight the risks of further escalations,” they said.
Analysts have said that the Kremlin has also been fuelling unrest in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo. Its powerful propaganda units have set up TV stations in Belgrade, pumping out news that promotes its worldview.
Thousands of pro-Russia nationalist Serbs marched through central Belgrade a few days after the Kremlin invaded Ukraine last year in support of the war and the proportion of Serbs backing EU membership has fallen. In December, a government poll showed that 43 per cent of the country is in favour of joining the bloc, compared to 54 per cent a year earlier.
Among the signatories of the politicians’ letter were Alicia Kearns, chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, several MPs and members of the House of Lords.
“The current approach is not working. We would ask that the international community learns from our past and ensure we do not adopt a Belgrade-centred policy for the Balkans,” they said./telegraph/