Kosovo Votes to Establish National Army
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Oct 18, 2018)
Kosovo's lawmakers have moved to create a national army in a vote boycotted by the parliament's Serb minority lawmakers. A similar effort last year was blocked when Serb politicians refused to change the constitution.

The Kosovo parliament on Thursday voted in support of establishing a 5,000-strong national army, despite the parliament's Serb minority representatives declaring the move illegal.

The draft laws received support from 98 deputies in the 120-seat parliament, but the vote was boycotted by the legislature's 11 Serb deputies and criticized by officials in Serbia.

Three laws, promoted by theKosovo government and passed in a first reading, upgraded the mandate of the lightly-armed domestic Kosovo Security Force (KSF) to be transformed into an army, which the government said bypassed the need to make changes to the constitution.

Approval in a second reading in a few days' time is required for the legislation to be completed.

The landlocked Balkan territory of 1.8 million people, which declared independence in 2008, is still guarded by NATO troops.

NATO moved into the state in June 1999 following weeks of air strikes by the alliance to end the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces fighting a two-year counter-insurgency after the break-up of Yugoslavia.

'Unforeseeable consequences'

Marko Djuric, Belgrade's chief government negotiator in EU-mediated talks with Kosovo, warned of "unforeseeable consequences" for regional security if the army was formed and urged international reaction.

"Serbia will protect its interests on the whole of its territory," Djuric said.

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said in a statement that the only armed forces in Kosovo must be NATO-led peacekeepers and that a Kosovo army would "threaten Serbia and the Serbs."

The US-led NATO alliance, which has 4,000 troops in the Balkan country, has also in the past urged Kosovo not to create a national army unless it had the support of the Serb minority.

It is not the first time the nationalist-dominated government has tried to create a national army. Last year the government's attempt was stymied by the refusal of Serb politicians to agree to change the constitution.

The United States and most of the EU member states recognize Kosovo, but objections from UN Security Council members Russia and China, which back Serbia in not accepting Kosovo's independence, have prevented it from becoming a member of the United Nations.

Kosov and Serbia also have to normalize their relations if they are ever to become members of the European Union.

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