This weekend “Serbian Railways” launched the train “Belgrade – Kosovo.” It is the first train connecting the Serbian capital Belgrade and Kosovo since Kosovo conflict (1998-1999). Serbian authorities claim the renewed rail service allows the majority of Serbian population in Kosovo’s north to have better communication with central Serbia.
Meanwhile the train is not ordinary; it has an outstanding design with the clear political message: “Kosovo Is Serbia,” written in 21 languages, including Albanian.
The train, made in Russia, is painted in the red, blue and white of the Serbian flag and is decorated with religious icons from Serbian Orthodox monasteries located in Kosovo.
The political art design of the train caused criticism from society and authorities. Pristina has denounced it as a serious provocation, challenging Kosovo’s territorial sovereignty and even urged the European Union to intervene.
“The introduction of an illegal rail service represents interference which threatens our sovereignty and proves Serbia is seeking to destabilise Kosovo,” declared Edita Tahiri, leader of Kosovo’s negotiating team with Belgrade.
“This is like a mobile exhibition presenting our cultural heritage!” declared Marko Djuric, the Serbian government’s office head for Kosovo. Djuric noticed the importance of the link between central Serbia and northern Kosovo and rejected the criticism.
Around 13,000 people were killed in the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict. A former Serbian province, Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Although most of Kosovo is ethnic Albanian, some Serbs consider it their native homeland.
With the assistance of European Union, agreement was reached in 2013 to “normalize” relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
Despite Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, Serbia, and its ally Russia, have not recognized its sovereignty. Kosovo is recognized by 23 out of the 28 EU member states.