Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has urged NATO to increase its military presence in Kosovo to safeguard the country’s borders with Serbia.
Speaking at a meeting of regional heads of state and NATO leaders in the Macedonian city of Skopje on November 22, Rama said illegal activity was currently “out of control” at the frontier.
These activities, it is said, include arms and narcotics smuggling.
Besides such criminality, there is also a wider problem of ethnic tensions with Serbia, Rama said. He accused “ultranationalists” of infiltrating the border region and warned it could lead to “great disturbances”.
There have been a number of clashes with ethnic Serbs in recent times and NATO had already been forced to increase its troop numbers in the region.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said his organisation did not see any current military threat to its allies in the Western Balkans. He did acknowledge an “increase in tensions”, especially in Kosovo.
“We are cautious, of course. We are closely monitoring the situation and we will certainly do what is necessary to protect and defend our allies,” Stoltenberg said.
Croatian President Zoran Milanović, who was also present at the meeting, backed Rama’s suggestion, which Stoltenberg said he would consider.
Following a visit to Kosovo on November 20, Stoltenberg stated that NATO was considering adding more peacekeepers. The next day in Belgrade he said recent episodes of violence in Kosovo were unacceptable and that those responsible must be brought to justice.
Serbia refuses to recognise Kosovo’s formal declaration of independence in 2008. Both countries seek to join the European Union, which is mediating the former adversaries’ discussions.
Both countries have been cautioned by Brussels that refusing to compromise jeopardises their chances of joining the bloc.