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.
PAN coalition, which won most seats in 11 June snap elections (39 out of 120), signed agreement 4 Sept with New Alliance for Kosovo party (which has four seats), helping end deadlock on appointment of new parliament speaker and govt. PAN 6 Sept reached agreement with main Kosovo Serb party Srpska Lista to support election of Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK)’s Kadri Veseli as new speaker; parliament elected Veseli new speaker next day and President Thaci nominated Ramush Haradinaj (Alliance for the Future of Kosovo) as PM. Parliament 9 Sept approved Haradinaj’s govt by 61 of 120 votes; Haradinaj told MPs there is “no alternative to dialogue with Serbia”. Serbia 12 Sept announced that Russia’s ruling United Russia party had lent its support to Srpska Lista to enter Kosovo govt, following meeting between Srpska Lista president and United Russia delegation. Haradinaj 10 Sept said he would reassess controversial border demarcation agreement with Montenegro, ratification of which is a condition for EU to unblock visa-free access; 12 Sept appointed new demarcation team.
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