Kosovo Plans to Create Army Next Week, Drawing Anger From Serbs

(Bloomberg) -- Kosovo will adopt laws next week to open the way to turning its lightly armed security force into an army, its parliament speaker said, drawing condemnation from its neighbor Serbia.

Kosovo’s constitution, drawn up in 2008 when it declared independence from Serbia, doesn’t allow for an army, and peacekeepers led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have been stationed there since a bombing campaign drove out Serb troops in 1999. While ethnic-Serb lawmakers have blocked attempts to change the charter and allow a military, the ethnic-Albanian dominated government is now trying to push through changes with ordinary laws.

“We will officially have the Kosovo Army,” Speaker Kadri Veseli said on Facebook. The U.S. has backed Kosovo’s shift toward an army despite Serbia’s objections, saying that the transition will take considerable time.

The push for a military has raised tensions with Serbia, which refuses to recognize Kosovo as a country. Backed by Russia and China, Belgrade has blocked its neighbor’s efforts to gain acknowledgement in international bodies, though both sides need to mend ties for possible European Union membership. Last week, Kosovo slapped 100 percent tariffs on all Serbian imports after it was blocked from joining Interpol, the international policing body.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn urged Kosovo to lift the tariff during a visit to Pristina Monday, but Kosovo Premier Ramush Haradinaj said the duties will remain in place until Serbia recognizes of Kosovo.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reiterated his stance that it would never happen. He also warned, without presenting evidence, that the creation of an army will allow the ethnic-Albanian majority in Kosovo to seize Serb enclaves.

“We want to point to the proportions of a catastrophe that may follow unless someone stops Pristina as soon as possible,” Vucic told reporters late Monday. Kosovo’s push to create an army “brings the whole region to the highest degree of danger,” he said.

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