The stabilisation of the Western Balkans is crucial to German and European foreign policy. Alongside dialogue efforts, economic cooperation and humanitarian assistance, participating in NATO’s KFOR mission is a cornerstone of Germany’s engagement. Even though considerable progress has been made in stabilising the region, the troops are helping to avert a possible escalation.
Reduced presence on the ground
The Bundestag is currently debating the extension of the mission by another year. The aim is to support the development of a peaceful, multi-ethnic and democratic environment in Kosovo. Since the start of the mission 21 years ago, the situation in Kosovo has become considerably more stable and NATO has been able to gradually reduce troop numbers. The Bundeswehr also lowered the ceiling for German personnel to 400 soldiers when the mandate was last extended in June 2019. The German Government has thus reduced its presence while, at the same time, maintaining the flexibility it needs to react swiftly to unexpected changes in the security situation.
Foreign Minister Maas had the following to say about this:
We are feeling the tensions in the Balkans throughout Europe. The Balkans are not only geographically, but also politically and historically, at the heart of Europe.
De-escalation and mediation
Despite all the progress made in the sphere of stabilisation, relations between Kosovo and Serbia have greatly deteriorated during the last 16 months. The dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo on normalising relations, which is being facilitated by the EU, has practically come to a standstill during the last few months. The German Government is doing everything in its power to bring about the resumption of the talks mediated by EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák. The suspension of the dialogue is fanning the flames of unrest and distrust on both sides and shows that the continued presence of the KFOR mission is essential. The mission is making an important contribution towards ensuring that political tensions between Belgrade and Pristina do not escalate into military tensions.
Foreign Minister Maas had the following to say:
KFOR is needed as a guarantor of security and as an anchor of stability in the region. The fact that KFOR enjoys the support of both sides is worth its weight in gold when it comes to de-escalation and mediation.
Longest German mission abroad
The multinational military mission KFOR led by NATO was established in 1999 after the end of the Kosovo war. The mission is based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244. During the last few years, NATO was able to focus more on advising Kosovo’s security Forces.