Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has announced on his Twitter account that the Serbian authorities will soon release the three Kosovan police officers who were detained earlier this month. When Orbán was in Serbia last week, he asked President Aleksandar Vucic for their release.
“Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has just informed me that in accordance with the request made at our meeting last week, the Serbian authorities will soon release the three previously arrested Kosovo policemen from custody. We highly appreciate the step of the President, taken during a period of serious challenges, and which decision is clear proof of the strategic cooperation between our countries and our mutual commitment to the peace and stability of the Balkans,” Orbán tweeted.
The prime minister traveled to Serbia last week where, among other things, he asked Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to consider the possibility of releasing the three Kosovo police officers. He said that this would help Serbia in international politics. In response to the latter request, the President of Serbia had then replied that the case of the arrested policemen was a matter for the Serbian judicial authorities, as after the arrest, a dispute arose over the exact location of the incident.
Kosovo was part of Serbia until 2008, when it gained independence. However, its independence has been disputed ever since, with not all countries in Europe recognizing Kosovo as an independent state, especially not Serbia. Previously, Serbs were the majority, but this has changed over time, and today, Albanians are in the majority by over 80 percent.
A dialogue aimed at normalizing relations between the two sides started in 2013, but no significant progress has been made so far.
Meanwhile, Serbia is trying to show that at least part of Kosovo wants to live with their Serbian motherland.
There have been ongoing conflicts of varying degrees between the two sides, the most recent of which was renewed at the end of May. After Kosovo’s 2008 independence, the government in Pristina pledged to create the legal framework for Serbs to establish a community of Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo, where they would live in blocks in several municipalities. However, the Kosovo government had been obstructing this, which led to the Serbs in northern Kosovo withdrawing from state institutions, including Serb-majority municipalities, in November last year. Pristina responded by calling elections in which the Serbs did not participate. As a result, Albanians elected mayors in Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo with a 3-4% turnout, which the Serbs refused to accept.
At the end of May, Serbs marched to mayors’ offices.
In the Kosovo municipality of Zvečan, soldiers of the Hungarian Defense Forces in the NATO peacekeeping force KFOR were deployed against them for crowd dispersal.
In the clash, the protesters used improvised explosive devices. In addition to soldiers from other countries, a total of 27 Hungarian soldiers were injured, fifteen of them seriously.
After the unrest, the military presence in the country was further strengthened, but tempers have not calmed down, which is how the three Kosovo police officers were captured by Serbs last week. As reported by Serbian authorities, the police officers were arrested in the middle part of Serbia, and they have been charged with the unauthorized manufacture, possession, carrying, and trafficking of weapons and explosives. The Serbian prosecutor’s office has ordered an investigation into the case.
However, Pristina says that the police officers were arrested on Kosovo territory, not Serbian territory, and were effectively kidnapped.
Another problem is that the Serbian Chief of General Staff, Milan Mojsilovic, said on Friday that if the KFOR peacekeeping mission cannot deal with the situation in northern Kosovo and protect the people there, the Serbian army will not hesitate to intervene. As Serbia considers Kosovo its own territory, Belgrade considers that the Serbian military has jurisdiction over the area.
Featured photo via Facebook/NATO Kosovo Force – KFOR