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.
Leader of Vetevendosje (“Self-Determination” party, which won 26.29% of votes in Oct election, 32 of 120 seats in parliament) Albin Kurti continued talks with second-placed Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK, which won 24.46%, 29 seats) on formation of coalition govt, and efforts to secure support of three minority MPs. Final result announced 7 Nov, however following complaints from losing parties Election Complaints and Appeals Panel 11 Nov ordered recount of votes from over half of polling stations in Kosovo, and invalidated 3,782 ballots cast in Serbia on procedural grounds, prompting criticism from Belgrade and challenge at Supreme Court by Vetevendosje party against decision. Election turnout reported as 44.72%, higher than previous polls. Ghana 11 Nov announced it had reversed its 2012 recognition of Kosovo independence, saying decision had been “premature”. Hungarian nominee for EU enlargement commissioner 14 Nov told MEPs he would aim for “successful conclusion” to EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in 2020. After meeting with his Serbian counterpart in Paris 12 Nov, President Thaçi said dialogue should continue “without any conditionality”.
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