Norwegian NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed concerns about Kosovo’s plans, to transform the Balkan country’s lightly armed security force, into its own national army.
Stoltenberg made the comments following a meeting of the military alliance’s foreign ministers in Brussels on December 5, nine days before the Kosovar parliament is set to vote on whether to create its own regular army.
The Serbian prime minister has warned for Serbia’s armed intervention in the former province if they do not join NATO. Relations between Pristina and Belgrade have been tense since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Belgrade and ethnic Serbs in the northern part of Kosovo have vehemently opposed the creation of a Kosovar military, saying it would violate UN resolutions and be used against the country’s Serb minority — a claim denied by officials in Pristina.
Tensions between Pristina and Belgrade have also soared after the Kosovo government last month introduced a 100% tax on imports from Serbia in retaliation for what it said were the country’s efforts to undermine the young republic on the international stage.
Although more than 110 countries recognize Kosovo, Serbia does not. Both Kosovo and Serbia have been told they must resolve their differences in order to make progress toward EU membership.
Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 after NATO launched air strikes to stop the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces during a two-year counter insurgency war.
Nearly two decades after the end of the conflict, the landlocked territory of 1.8 million people is still guarded and occupied by NATO troops.
The proposed laws envision the sovereign security force will have 5,000 active soldiers and 3,000 reservists. Parliament is set to vote again on the proposals on December 14.
Radio Liberty / ABC Flash Point NATO News 2018.