The train is emblazoned with the phrase “Kosovo is Serbian” in 21 languages, including Albanian, and is decorated inside with images of Serbian-built monasteries and churches.
Serbian authorities have sent a tricked-out train bearing slogans inside and out to a Serbian-dominated area of Kosovo, an act Kosovo authorities are calling aggressive and provocative.
Hostesses on the train wear uniforms in the colors of the Serbian flag.
“This is like a mobile exhibition presenting our cultural heritage!” Marko Djuric, head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, said of the rolling statement, ABC News reported. He also warned that any attempt to block the train from entering Kosovo would be a violation of freedom of movement.
And anyway, “I don’t see why something that is part of world heritage would present a provocation for anyone,” Djuric asserted.
Djuric’s deputy and the director of the Serbian national railway company were to take part in the 10-hour journey northward.
Kosovo, now mostly Muslim and Albanian-speaking, declared independence in 2008, nearly a decade after the end of a bloody war with Serbia, and is recognized as such by the US and much of the EU.
Serbia, however, does not recognize the independence of its former province.
The January 14 promotional tour was the first train ride from Belgrade to Mitrovica since the end of the war, Deutsche Welle reports.
Kosovo State Minister Edita Tahiri called the train “illegal” January 13 and accused Serbia of undermining regional stability.
“This is a provocation against Kosovo, which shows that Serbia has openly come out with aggressive politics threatening Kosovo’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its national security,” she said. She asked the EU to get involved in the matter.
Belgrade announced that it was considering setting up a regular train service to Kosovska Mitrovic, a Serbian dominated area in the mostly-Muslim young nation. A temporary service will be launched later this month and will run through much of February; a decision on whether to make the service permanent will be made later.
The Republic of Kosovo declared their independence from Serbia in 2008, a move which Serbia rejects. Initially there were no relations between the two, however following years have seen increased dialogue and co-operation between the governments of Kosovo and Serbia.
Serbia strongly opposed Kosovo’s declaration of independence, which was declared on 17 February 2008. On 12 February 2008, the Government of Serbia instituted an Action Plan to combat Kosovo’s anticipated declaration, which stipulated, among other things, recalling the Serbian ambassadors for consultations in protest from any state recognising Kosovo, which it has consistently done. Activities of ambassadors from countries that have recognised independence are limited to meetings with Foreign Ministry lower officials. The Serbian Ministry of the Interior issued an arrest warrant against Hashim Thaçi, Fatmir Sejdiu and Jakup Krasniqi on 18 February 2008 on charges of high treason.
On 8 March 2008, the Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica resigned, dissolving the coalition government, saying it was too divided over the Kosovo situation to carry on. A pre-term parliamentary election was held on 11 May 2008, together with local elections. President Boris Tadić stated that the government fell “because there was no agreement regarding further EU integration”.
On 24 March 2008, Slobodan Samardžić, Minister for Kosovo and Metohija, proposed partitioning Kosovo along ethnic lines, asking the United Nations to ensure that Belgrade can control key institutions and functions in areas where Serbs form a majority but other members of the Government and the President denied these claims. On 25 March 2008, the outgoing Prime Minister, Vojislav Koštunica stated that membership in the EU should be “left aside,” until Brussels stated whether it recognised Serbia within its existing borders.
On 24 July 2008, the Government decided to return its ambassadors to EU countries. Other ambassadors were returned following the positive outcome of the vote in the UN General Assembly. Serbia has expelled diplomatic representations of all neighboring countries that subsequently recognised Kosovo’s independence: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, and the Republic of Macedonia.
On 15 August 2008, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić filed a request at the United Nations seeking a non-legally binding advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of whether the declaration of independence was in breach of international law. The United Nations General Assembly adopted this proposal on 8 October 2008. In July 2010, the ICJ issued its opinion which found that Kosovo’s declaration of independence “did not violate international law”.