Kosovo’s independence declaration on 17 February 2008 sent shock waves through Serbia’s politics and society, polarising the former in a manner not seen since the Milosevic era.
01 September 2014
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Southern Serbia’s Albanian-majority Presevo Valley is one of the rare conflict resolution success stories in the former Yugoslavia. Outwardly, it is increasingly normal, with no major incidents in over three years. Yet, tensions linger: massive unemployment is still the single largest problem but the shadow of Kosovo’s future status darkens the political landscape.
Serbia finally has a new government but one that is deeply divided between pro-Western and nationalist forces. Facing two difficult issues – Kosovo status and cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) – its choice is between moving towards European integration or on to a more isolationist path.
Premier Vojislav Kostunica won a high stakes gamble with passage of Serbia’s draft constitution in the 28-29 October referendum. However, numerous credible reports indicate the process was deeply flawed and the result falsified. The referendum cannot be characterised as either free or fair. The new constitution could prove a step away from European values.
Southern Serbia’s Albanian-majority Presevo Valley is a still incomplete Balkan success story. Since international and Serbian government diplomacy resolved an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001, donors and Belgrade have invested significant resources to undo a legacy of human rights violations and improve the economy.
Serbia has used the first months of 2005 to good effect, instituting a major policy change on cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague (ICTY) and sending signals that it is somewhat more willing to engage both the international community and Kosovo Albanians in dialogue about that province's status.
Whenever Balkan politicians discuss Kosovo's future status they warn of a "domino effect". One area frequently mentioned as vulnerable and a possible flashpoint of new violence is Serbia's Sandzak, an ethnically-mixed Muslim-Slav (Bosniak) majority region sandwiched between Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia.
On 11 July 2004, Boris Tadic was inaugurated as Serbia's first president since December 2002. Voters chose Tadic in the second round of the election, on 27 June, by a vote of 53 per cent over the ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Tadic's victory suggests that a slim majority of the electorate wants to see Serbia on a pro-European reform course.
In politics and policies, Serbia increasingly resembles the Milosevic-era without Milosevic. Its reaction to the catastrophic mid-March 2004 near collapse of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the strong showing by ultra-nationalists in the 28 December 2003 parliamentary elections and the subsequent two-months of squabbling before democratic parties could form a minority government that depends for survival on the support of Milosevic's old party all are signs that more trouble lies ahead.
The Albanian-majority Presevo Valley in southern Serbia is one of the few conflict resolution success stories in the former Yugoslavia. Yet tensions linger, and a series of violent incidents in August and September 2003 demonstrated that the peace can still unravel.
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