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.
President Thaçi 20 Jan nominated Vetëvendosje party leader Albin Kurti to be next PM, ending three-month political deadlock, while Kosovo and Serbia agreed to launch direct commercial flights after two-decade hiatus. With governing coalition negotiations following Oct 2019 snap elections apparently stalled, Thaçi 6 Jan warned of “constitutional crisis” and gave Vetëvendosje (“Self-Determination”) party 48 hours to form coalition and nominate PM, and 10 Jan said that he might ask Constitutional Court to clarify his constitutional responsibility “to make the institutions functional”; Kurti 13 Jan criticised “threatening warning”, urging Thaçi avoid putting further pressure on negotiating process. Thaçi 20 Jan nominated Kurti to be next PM with constitution granting him fifteen days to form new govt and secure parliament’s approval. Kosovo and Serbia 20 Jan agreed to launch direct commercial flights in deal mediated by U.S. after flights were halted in 1998; outgoing Minister of Infrastructure 21 Jan called deal “a step towards mutual recognition”; Belgrade said deal would be implemented once Pristina lifts its 100% tariffs set in Nov 2018 on Serbian goods.
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