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 12 Dec called for new parliament to hold “constitutive session” 24 Dec between Vetëvendosje (“Self-Determination” party) and Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK); talks on new coalition govt between Vetëvendosje and LDK 25 Dec failed over agreement on candidate for next presidential elections; LDK 26 Dec said in unexpected turn of event it is willing to vote for minority Vetëvendosje govt without joining it, would stay in opposition. More than 20 officials from main Serb party Srpska Lista 17 Dec took on positions assigned by Serbian govt in Serb-controlled north. Pristina condemned claim by Serbian President Vučić 5 Dec that 1999 wartime massacre in southern village Račak was fabricated; Thaçi 10 Dec called for Belgrade to acknowledge its blame for “crimes against humanity”; Pristina court 5 Dec convicted Kosovo Serb MP Ivan Todosijevic of incitement to ethnic, racial or religious intolerance for claiming massacre was staged. Albania and Kosovo 3 Dec agreed to merge their electricity power grids, ending Kosovo dependence on Serbia; Belgrade accused them of pursuing “Greater Albania of energy”, urged international community to intervene. Kosovo’s Special Prosecution 2 Dec indicted six people in connection with 2018 murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović; trial postponed 30 Dec until 11 Feb. Journalist Ensar Ramadani said Acting Trade Minister, Endrit Shala, assaulted him 17 Dec.
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