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Kosovo and Serbia's simmering disputes

A Kosovo Serb protests against Pristina's move to slap 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods
A Kosovo Serb protests against Pristina's move to slap 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods AFP
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Pristina (AFP)

Serbia and Kosovo's troubled relationship has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, with Pristina's vote on Friday to form an army just one of many sources of tension between the former war foes.

Here are the other main quarrels between the neighbours whose mutual distrust runs deep 20 years after Kosovo's independence war.

- Recognition of Kosovo -

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after its ethnic Albanian guerilla fighters battled Serb troops in a war that cost 13,000 lives.

Although it has been recognised by more than 100 countries, Kosovo has struggled to gain full global acceptance, with Belgrade refusing to recognise the split.

Serbia claims that a dozen countries, such as Papua New Guinea, Surinam or recently Madagascar, have withdrawn their recognition.

But Pristina denies the claims as "Serbian propaganda".

Kosovo has made recognition by Belgrade a condition of any deal to normalise ties -- something Serbia needs to do to move forward in EU accession talks.

- Economic war -

With help from allies Russia and China, Belgrade has locked Kosovo out of the United Nations and other international organisations.

Serbia's most recent coup was skewering Kosovo's efforts to join the global police organisation Interpol in November.

Pristina shot back by slapping Serbian goods with a 100 percent tariff on 22 November.

But the measure has yet to trigger any significant food shortages or price surges in Kosovo, though it has curtailed the flow of goods across the border.

- Kosovo's Serbs -

There is no official census, but ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo is still home to about 120,000 ethnic Serbs, who consider themselves loyal to Belgrade.

They are concentrated in the northern region around the divided city of Mitrovica, but also in a dozen predominantly Serb enclaves where Pristina has struggled to exercise its authority.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has encouraged Serbs in Kosovo to continue demonstrations, saying there will be no dialogue until the tariff is revoked.

The autonomy of Serb communities is a major sticking point in sputtering EU-led negotiations between the neighbours.

In 2013, an agreement called for the creation of an association of 10 Serb-majority "municipalities".

But it has never been implemented, as Belgrade and Pristina cannot agree on the powers these communities would have.

- Territorial disputes -

Belgrade and Pristina both claim ownership of property in Kosovo, notably the Trepca mining complex in the north and the Gazivode artificial lake, called Ujman by Kosovo Albanians.

Located in an area populated by ethnic Serbs, the lake plays a crucial role for Kosovo's water supply and energy independence.

Trepca and its minerals also represent a rare source of wealth in the poor region, even if its industrial infrastructure is in an appalling state.

While most mines are on the Albanian side of Mitrovica, the industrial complex is on the Serb side.

- A 'parallel system' in the north -

In the mainly ethnic-Serb half of the Kosovo city of Mitrovica, cars have either Serbian registration plates or none, while inhabitants use Serbian dinars as currency.

It is impossible to use a Kosovo phone there.

The two sides still do not mutually recognise their respective university diplomas.

Nor do the people there pay electricity bills to a Kosovo company, which the Pristina administration says costs them about 10 million euros annually ($11 million).

Pristina accuses Belgrade of funding a "parallel system" by paying wages to civil servants in northern Kosovo.

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