Row over train between Serbia and Kosovo

A railway line running between the Serbian capital Belgrade and Mitrovica in the north of Kosovo was to be reopened for the first time in 18 years on the weekend, but the first train on the route was stopped at the border with Kosovo because it was painted in Serbia's national colours and featured the slogan 'Kosovo is Serbia'. Commentators criticise the incident, blaming it on Serbian propaganda, and feel reminded of darker times.

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Danas (RS) /

Planless propaganda

Although Serbian media influenced by the state are accusing Kosovo of provoking the clash over the train to Mitrovica, the oppositional newspaper Danas sees the Serbian government as responsible:

“Sabre-rattling, demonstrations in Mitrovica and harsh words are the result of a propaganda project called 'Train from Belgrade to Kosovska Mitrovica'. Exaggeration, kitsch and blatant propaganda were hardly the ideal preconditions for a peaceful journey. … This configuration could only lead to one result: conflict. Which is precisely what happened. And the president of Serbia, fired up by patriotic fervour and hoping to score points for the upcoming election campaign, almost declared war. … But he forgot that his irresponsible threat would also lead to confrontation with Nato, which would be disastrous for everyone and probably end in a defeat for Serbia.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Serbia using same provocations as before the war

The Serbian president's recent remarks are reminiscent of those made before the Yugoslav wars, Večernji list warns:

“When the train to Mitrovica came to a halt Serbian Prime Minister Vučić ranted that this was a final warning and request to the Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija [the Serbian name for the western part of Kosovo] not to attack the Serbs [living there] with weapons - that Serbia would not allow this. A provocation similar to that which [Serbia's SKJ leader] Milošević voiced in Kosovo in 1987: 'No one can attack Serbs'. In recent months the statements made by top Serbian politicians increasingly sound like the threats of the 1980s which then ended in a bloody armed conflict. So that too was simply a 'train of provocation'. How else can it be described when it set off for Kosovska Mitrovica with the words 'Kosovo is Serbia' painted in huge letters on it? Milošević used the same slogan to promote his Greater Serbia policy in the 1980s in Yugoslavia.”

Delo (SI) /

Peace in the Balkans based on compromise

The incident with the train shows how fragile peace and stability in the Balkans is, writes Delo:

“The belligerent rhetoric between Kosovo and Serbia was just a show. Although this is a frozen conflict it is unlikely to turn into violent confrontation between the two states. But the incident with the train has shown that peace in Europe is the result of a painful compromise. The efforts towards normalising relations between Kosovo and Serbia are based not least on the promise that the two conflicting sides will become members of the family of European nations. … It is also a fact that Serbia will continue to try to bring Kosovo back within its own borders despite the latter's proclaimed independence, despite the presence of the Nato peace missions and the EU and despite the billions in cash injections.”