Police in Kosovo have triggered a diplomatic incident with Serbia after forcing the 25-year-old son of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to remove a t-shirt bearing a nationalist slogan during a traffic stop outside of the capital in Pristina Wednesday, June 28th.
Danilo Vučić was returning home in a convoy of vehicles from Kosovo after celebrating ‘Vidovdan,’ an important national holiday for ethnic Serbs, when he was pulled over by traffic police.
Vučić who is known to mix within Serbian nationalist and football circles in the majority Albanian country was reported to have been wearing a t-shirt with the words “Surrender Is Not An Option”—a popular phrase among anti-Kosovo Serbian nationalists—at the time. Authorities forced the younger Vučić to remove the t-shirt at the side of the road.
The incident has inflamed already high tensions between the Serbian and Kosovo governments as President Vučić rushed to defend his son against the actions of the police. President Vučić directly accused Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti of cowardice for allowing the incident, adding that his son had experienced multiple incidents of police harassment while in Kosovo.
Serbian nationalists have a longstanding irredentist claim to Kosovo stemming back to the collapse of Yugoslavia and Kosovo’s formal independence in 2008 assisted by American backing. Kosovo plays an important role in Serbian historic memory with many ultranationalists claiming that Kosovo functions entirely as a Western proxy to influence the region and is effectively administered by criminal Albanian gangs.
Serbia is increasingly at a crossroads regarding its relationship with Kosovo and the West in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine with attempts to roll the country into the EU. Nationalist groups have leaped on the incident with Andrej Mitic, International Secretary of the right-wing populist Dveri Party, in comments given exclusively to The European Conservative, saying that Kosovar authorities knew well the symbolism of stopping the president’s son during the Serbian national holiday.
The broader context is tension in the north of Kosovo and Metohija [the Serbian name for the region], with the vast Serbian majority being imposed at the moment by illegitimate Albanian mayors.
This sentiment was echoed by Serbian MP Jovan Palalic with the Serbian People’s Party who told The European Conservative that Kosovar elites were despairing at the expression of patriotic feeling by Serbia’s youth who were willing to continue the claim Belgrade has to the country.
“It is a shirt worn by many young Serbs, and it is certain that the whole group of separatists in Kosovo now clearly understands that Serbia has new generations who are ready not only to bravely keep the vow of their ancestors, but also to pass it on,” Palalic said in a statement highlighting what he saw as the recklessness of Kosovar police.
Recent months have seen sporadic violence in Kosovo on the back of the alienation of ethnic Serbs by the election of Albanian majors in the breakaway region. Serbia has often been accused of harbouring pro-Russia sympathies on account of the country’s Slavic heritage with the flaring up of violence complicated by an already strained geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe.
Robert Semonsen contributed to this article.