This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Crisis Group expert Marko Prelec about the precarious situation in the Western Balkans, as Serb separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the frozen Kosovo-Serbia dispute continue to stoke regional instability.
Authorities reached deal with Belgrade over license plates, ending nearly two-year dispute that had fuelled worrying rise in tensions.
Pristina and Belgrade 23 Nov struck European Union (EU)-brokered deal to end license plate dispute amid growing concerns of possible violence. According to EU High Representative Josep Borrell, “Serbia will stop issuing licence plates with Kosovo cities’ denominations”, while Kosovo will cease demands to re-register vehicles with Serbian plates. Borrell added that priority is now Franco-German proposal “on the normalisation of their relations”, details of which were leaked by news agency Euractiv 9 Nov. Deal came as tensions peaked during first part of month. Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla 3 Nov suspended northern Kosovo’s police chief for refusing to issue warnings of fines to drivers with Serbia-issued license plates, as per govt plan. In protest, hundreds of Serb lawmakers, judges and police officers 5 Nov resigned, while reportedly thousands next day rallied in northern Mitrovica city. EU mid-Nov deployed 130 police officers from Poland and Italy to take over patrols in northern Kosovo after resignation of some 600 police officers. NATO 7 Nov urged “both to refrain from unilateral action” while EU and U.S. 21 Nov urged Kosovo to “immediately suspend” next phase of license plate plan. Kurti same day agreed to “48-hour postponement” of fines before parties reached final deal two days later.
This week on War & Peace, Crisis Group’s Balkan expert Marko Prelec joins Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope to discuss why the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue has stalled, why the status quo is untenable and how to change it.
Online Event to discuss Crisis Group's report "Relaunching the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue", in which we discussed what currently stands in the way of a new status quo and what it will take to relaunch the process with the Pristina elections in view.
Thirteen years after Kosovo broke away from Serbia, the two countries remain mired in mutual non-recognition, with deleterious effects on both. The parties need to move past technicalities to tackle the main issues at stake: Pristina’s independence and Belgrade’s influence over Kosovo’s Serbian minority.
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.
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.
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.
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