The Balkans was best known for minority problems. Today, the most bitter conflicts are between parties that appeal to majority ethnic communities. As recent turbulence in Macedonia shows, Eastern Europe could face new dangers if majority populism ends the current stigma against separatism for oppressed small groups.
Following resignation of PM Haradinaj in July, parliament dissolved itself, while Kosovo-Serbia relations remained tense. Parliamentary Speaker Kadri Veseli 2 Aug reportedly rejected President Thaçi’s request to nominate new PM, instead parliament’s leadership 5 Aug opted to vote on dissolution. In 22 Aug session, parliament voted to dissolve itself and hold new legislative elections, scheduled for 6 Oct. In 13 Aug statement, U.S., UK, France, Germany and Italy (known as Quint member states) called on Kosovo and Serbia to renew EU-mediated dialogue “with urgency”, said status quo was “not sustainable”, and urged Kosovo to lift customs tariff on Serbian imports. After meeting with U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo, Serbian President Vučić 20 Aug said he expected to resume dialogue with Kosovo in Dec. Thaçi late Aug said dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia was “indispensable”.
Serbia and Kosovo must build on a recent breakthrough in negotiations and extend dialogue to sensitive issues, especially northern Kosovo’s institutions, in order to keep their fragile relationship moving forward.
Kosovo deserves to celebrate today as the international community converts the “supervised independence” it achieved four years ago to full independence, but it must also do more to guarantee full protection of minority rights, especially those of the country’s Serb population.
The dispute about Kosovo’s sovereignty continues to fuel tensions and violent clashes in northern Kosovo, halting Kosovo’s and Serbia’s fragile dialogue and putting at risk Serbia’s EU candidacy.
The dispute between Kosovo and Serbia, which keeps the Western Balkans divided and insecure, is most acute in Kosovo’s northern municipalities.
The development of more realistic, if not yet fully public, attitudes in Kosovo and Serbia suggest a win-win resolution of their dispute is feasible if both sides promptly open talks with the aim of reaching a comprehensive compromise.
Kosovo must bolster its failing justice system and establish rule of law throughout the country if it is to achieve prosperity and greater international recognition.
Political instability keeps growing in the Western Balkans amid geopolitical contests and increased tensions with Russia. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to engage intensively to ensure the political space for avoiding more serious crisis does nto entirely vanish in the Western Balkans.
Originally published in Today's Zaman