Serbia held one of its largest military exercises ever on November 10. The event, dubbed The Century of Winners 1918-2018, was intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, but it also looked like a show of military force amid tensions with neighboring Kosovo.
The drills came several weeks after Kosovo’s parliament adopted three draft laws to pave the way for the country to set up a regular army by transforming the Kosovo Security Force (KSF). The Serbian authorities are vehemently against such move.
The military drill started with flights by Mig-29 planes. 8,000 soldiers, 100 tanks, 100 armored fighting vehicles, as well as 100 artillery and rocket systems participated in the drills, the Serbian government said in a statement.
The river flotilla was also mobilised with 14 riverboats, 40 boats and tugboats, and eight amphibians.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic were present during the drills.
Serbia and Kosovo are engaged in high-level dialogue to normalise their relations but the EU-mediated talks are in crisis as there has been no progress in talks since September when Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic refused to meet Kosovan peer Hashim Thaci. Vucic and Thaci did meet on November 8, but no specific steps were agreed.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, following the 1998-99 civil war, but it has never been recognised as an independent state by Belgrade.
Following the last meeting between Vucic and Thaci in Brussels, the European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini said it is expected Serbia and Kosovo will swiftly deliver on their commitment to the dialogue to normalise their relations, which is a crucial requirement for their advancement towards EU membership,
Mogherini emphasised the need for Kosovo and Serbia to ensure an environment conducive for the dialogue and to refrain from words, actions and measures that are contrary to the spirit of normalisation.