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.
After Kosovo police arrested two UN officials for allegedly impeding security operations in 28 May raid in ethnic Serb-dominated part of Mitrovica in north, head of UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Zahir Tanin, 10 June told UN Security Council that Kosovo police had violated UN officials’ immunity, and that UN would continue to investigate matter. Constitutional court 27 June ruled that negotiating team, which parliament tasked with leading negotiations in EU-led dialogue with Serbia, was unconstitutional, citing overlap with existing institutions. U.S. continued to urge govt to end custom tariffs on Serbian imports, with U.S. Dep Assistant Sec State 10 June calling them “an obstacle” to normalising relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Serbian President Vučić tried to shore up international support for talks with Kosovo; in letter to U.S. President Trump 14 June urged Washington to pressure Kosovo to lift its tariffs in order to advance “a compromise” solution.
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