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.
Parliament confirmed new govt led by Albin Kurti as PM, while EU special representative sought to reignite Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. Following landslide win of Vetëvendosje party in snap parliamentary elections in Feb, Central Election Commission 4 March ratified results and parliament 22 March approved new govt headed by Vetëvendosje party leader Albin Kurti. Newly confirmed PM Kurti said govt would prioritise fight against corruption, economic development and missing persons issue in dialogue with Serbia. Serbian President Vučić 23 March accused Kurti of violating Kosovo constitution by not including two Serbian ministers in newly formed govt. Prior to formation of new govt, EU Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák 1-2 March visited capital Pristina and met with Kurti, then Acting President Vjosa Osmani and then Acting PM Avdullah Hoti. After meetings, Lajčák 2 March stated that under incoming govt “there are no obstacles to reaching a comprehensive agreement between Kosovo and Serbia”; Osmani said that end goal of dialogue should be EU membership for both countries, and that Kosovo could “no longer make concessions”. Lajčák 3 March met with Serbian President Vučić in Serbian capital Belgrade, and stated that “dialogue is key for [Kosovo and Serbia] to advance on their European path”. Belgian authorities 16 March arrested former commander of Kosovo Liberation Army Pjeter Shala under indictment issued by Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.
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.
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.
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.
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