Pristina, Kosovo – Large anti-government protests organised by ethnic Albanian opposition parties erupted in Kosovo’s capital Pristina this week, more than a month after parliamentarians there approved a new coalition government.
The protests were the largest since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Many Kosovars are dissatisfied with the new government, which has just ended a six-month political stalemate that followed the parliamentary elections of last June.
In the wake of a Serb politician’s denial of war crimes against ethnic Albanians during the 1998-1999 war, ethnic tensions flared again in Europe’s youngest nation.
The protesters also called for the government to reclaim the Trepca mine, which in the last week reignited a politically-explosive issue in Kosovo and neighbouring Serbia.
Both countries claim the mine, which spreads out between Kosovo’s Serbian-dominated and ethnic Albanian-dominated areas. Hundreds of miners at Trepca – working 750 meters below ground – refused to resurface for three days to protest the Kosovo government backtracking on a promise not to give up control of the mine to Serbia.
The protests this week took a violent turn when demonstrators threw stones at government buildings in the city centre and riot police officers were deployed with tear gas to stop the violence.
The opposition party gave the Kosovo government a deadline – January 26 – to remove the Serb politician. The government refused and the protests continued on Tuesday, with more planned in the coming days.
Nearly 5,600 NATO troops from 30 nations, including the US, remain in Kosovo to maintain peace and stability in a country pushing for European Union membership.