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.
U.S.-led Kosovo-Serbia dialogue resumed. Following cancellation of U.S.-sponsored Kosovo-Serbia talks in June and resumption of EU-led Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in July, Kosovo State Coordinator for Dialogue with Serbia Skender Hyseni 3-5 Aug visited Washington D.C. to request permanent and active U.S. presence at negotiating table; Hyseni 4 Aug stated that U.S. Special Envoy Richard Grenell confirmed he remained “committed and strongly engaged in the Kosovo–Serbia dialogue, which must conclude with mutual recognition”. Grenell 14 Aug announced new meeting between both countries would take place early Sept in Washington D.C; both Hoti and Serbian President Vucic confirmed their participation; PM Hoti 14 Aug stated that they would meet “as two independent countries” and talks would focus on “major economic cooperation projects”. Meanwhile, European Commission 11 Aug signed Memorandum of Understanding for €100mn in macro-financial assistance program.
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