EU-brokered meeting between Kosovo and Serbian PMs and presidents in Brussels 1 Feb failed to calm tensions. EU foreign policy chief Mogherini reported “constructive engagement” with both sides reconfirming commitment to dialogue, however anonymous diplomatic sources said no results. NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg 3 Feb urged Pristina and Belgrade to ease tensions, move from rhetoric to dialogue and move forward normalisation process. Kosovo Serbs 5 Feb demolished unauthorised concrete wall they constructed in Dec 2016 dividing Mitrovica, following meeting previous day between local Kosovo Serb leaders and Pristina officials, facilitated by EU and U.S. officials, resulting in agreement to ease tensions. President Thaci 13 Feb announced new Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with alleged atrocities during 1998-99 war and improve relations between ethnic Serbs and Albanians. Govt-appointed commission 21 Feb found that 2015 border deal with Montenegro did not result in loss of Kosovo territory as claimed by opposition parties who refuse to ratify deal, thus blocking its ratification in parliament, which is a condition of EU visa liberalisation.
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.
Originally published in Today's Zaman