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Fear of “Trojan horse in Europe” is growing

Serbia sees Kosovo as a breakaway province

Some politicians and commentators drew parallels to Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine in light of the recent escalation. Is there a threat of military escalation from Serbia, which still does not recognize Kosovo’s independence – but is considered a close partner of Russia? Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, and 100 countries now recognize the country. But the government in Belgrade continues to regard Kosovo as a breakaway province. The Serbian population in northern Kosovo is largely loyal to the government in Belgrade, which provides them with generous financial support.

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This is one of the reasons why comparisons are made with the situation in Ukraine: Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Goncharenko wrote that Serbia is trying to start an aggressive war. “Exactly according to Putin’s method,” says one of his posts on Twitter. “Serbia is Putin’s Trojan horse in Europe.” The Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz, also puts the two conflicts on the same footing. She wrote on Twitter: “Russia against Ukraine, Serbia against Kosovo. It’s barbaric, pure fascism.”

Serbian “rocking policy”

However, experts see no indication that Serbia actually wants to try to incorporate Kosovo. On the contrary, they call for such comparisons to be avoided. The Balkans expert from the think tank Atlantic Council, Dimitar Bechev, writes on Twitter: “Serbia is not Russia, Kosovo is not Ukraine”.

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Shaking hands in 2019: Serbian President Vučić and his Russian counterpart Putin. (Those: Mikhail Metzel via www.imago-images.de)

This is commonly referred to as Serbia’s “see-saw policy” – the Balkan country has been negotiating accession to the EU since 2014 and wants to be included in the next round of expansion. At the same time, it maintains friendly relations with Russia, from which Serbia receives relatively cheap gas. Serbia is still not participating in the EU sanctions against Russia.

Expert: “This is a bilateral issue”

The head of the office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Kosovo, Daniel Braun, also warns against associating the recent escalation on the ground with the Russian actions in Ukraine. “It’s a bilateral issue,” he says in an interview with t-online, meaning one between Serbia and Kosovo. The public shouldn’t make the mistake of placing this conflict in a larger context that doesn’t even exist.

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