While Kosovo and Serbia have been at peace since 1999, the unresolved dispute over the former’s independence is a potential source of instability in the western Balkans. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to determine whether there is possibility to expressly focus on achieving a final agreement based on mutual recognition, help establish communication channels between the parties, and highlight that both Begrade and Pristina should address pervasive misinformation about the dispute, and communicate with their respective peoples in a more concerted way.
EU-led Kosovo-Serbia dialogue resumed and Constitutional Court declared PM Hoti’s govt as illegitimate. Kosovo State Coordinator on Dialogue Skender Hyseni and Serbian Director of Government Office for Kosovo Petar Petkovic 10 Dec met for new round of EU-brokered talks in Brussels led by EU Representative for Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak; meeting produced no significant narrowing of differences on financial claims and property issues. Constitutional Court 21 Dec ruled that PM Hoti’s govt was illegitimate as it received Assembly majority with invalid vote cast by MP Etem Arifi who was convicted for corruption in Aug 2019; acting President Vjosa Osmani 22 Dec began consultations with political parties to set date for snap elections. Kosovo electricity network system operator KOSTT 15 Dec began to operate independently from Serbian operator EMS in newly-established regulatory area covering whole Kosovo territory, including Serb-majority north; Serbian President Vucic warned govt to refrain from such unilateral moves that could hamper ongoing talks. FM Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla 27 Dec accused Serbia of violating Kosovo’s national security through “illegal roads” and “unverified pharmaceutical products”, said Serbia had “undermined” ongoing normalisation process. Chief Prosecutor in Mitrovica municipality next day revealed investigation was underway into how COVID-19 vaccines from Serbia had reached Kosovo’s Serb-run north without prior consultation with local authorities; Vucic same day said distribution of vaccine in northern Kosovo does not violate Brussels agreements.
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