Italy seeks to foster peace in the Balkans. On Monday, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani reacted to an escalation of tensions between Kosovo and Serbia by calling the leaders and pushing for stability. “I spoke with President Alexander Vucic and Prime Minister Albin Kurti. I asked both of them to encourage dialogue between the parties,” he posted to X (née Twitter).
- FM Tajani added that he is working with Defence Minister Guido Crosetto “to strengthen the presence of KFOR on the border between Serbia and Kosovo and prevent further clashes.”
- That’s NATO’s Kosovo Force, the peace-supporting operation in Kosovo led by Mission Commander Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia and staffed by staff from 27 NATO member countries – with Italy providing the strongest, 800+ contingent.
Simmering tensions. Between Saturday and Sunday, a group of 30 heavily armed Serbs barricaded themselves in an Orthodox monastery in Northern Kosovo. Local police forces engaged them in an open-fire scenario that resulted in the death of one Kosovar officer and three Serbs. The episode was one of the worst flare-ups in violence since Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia.
- It’s also the latest instance of rekindled tensions in the past year. In May, 30 KFOR staffers (and 52 Serbs, according to Belgrade) were injured in violent demonstrations that erupted in the Kosovar city of Zvecan after newly elected officials attempted to enter municipal buildings.
- Other violent clashes ensued in November 2022 when Kosovar authorities attempted to force the adoption of national number plates. Back then, Ministers Tajani and Crosetto travelled to both Serbia and Kosovo to engage in high-level talks and foster dialogue.
Italy is a “protagonist of peace” in the Balkans, as FM Tajani wrote in his post, adding in an official note that his country “remains committed to the front line for the stability of the Balkans and the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.” Rome remains among the most important players in the EU- and US-led mediation process between Pristina and Belgrade and oversees the rule-of-law EULEX mission on top of KFOR.
- Back in April, the Italian FM had chaired a meeting with his colleagues from Western Balkans states, including both Serbia and Kosovo, intended to consolidate Italy’s role in the region’s European Union accession process.
- On her part, Italian PM Giorgia Meloni had called to “reunite” European countries – Balkanic countries, Moldova and Ukraine – within the EU at the European Political Community summit in Chisinau.