German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius arrived in Kosovo on Monday, the first stop in his planned multi-day trip to the Balkans.
Pistorius is scheduled to meet Kosovan government officials and German soldiers serving with NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping force.
His visit comes as Germany plans to increase the number of soldiers serving on the peacekeeping mission from 70 to about 220, amid increased tensions between Kosovo and neighbouring Serbia as well as a deteriorating security situation.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, following years of conflict. Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence and continues to claim Kosovo as a breakaway province.
Armed conflict in the 1990s between Serbian-led military forces and militants from Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority eventually led to warfare and a 1999 intervention by NATO forces against troops led by then-Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević.
NATO’s KFOR, or Kosovo Force, peacekeepers have remained in Kosovo since then and currently have several thousand soldiers stationed there.
In January, the mission’s commander, Lieutenant General Bernd Schütt, said at a handover ceremony in the Kosovan capital Pristina that the “KFOR mission was, is and will remain indispensable for maintaining stability in this region.”