How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
Report 32 / Europe & Central Asia

Kosovo Spring

Since 28 February when Serbian special police launched a brutal offensive against alleged ethnic Albanian (Kosovar) separatists in Kosovo, events in that ethnically-divided province of rump Yugoslavia have featured prominently on the front pages of newspapers and in television and radio news broadcasts throughout the world.

Executive Summary

Since 28 February when Serbian special police launched a brutal offensive against alleged ethnic Albanian (Kosovar) separatists in Kosovo, events in that ethnically-divided province of rump Yugoslavia  have featured prominently on the front pages of newspapers and in television and radio news broadcasts throughout the world. The powder keg, whose explosion has so often been predicted during the past decade, appears finally to be igniting. As the consequences of ethnic violence in Kosovo threaten to spill beyond the borders of rump Yugoslavia and endanger the stability of the entire region, the international community no longer accepts Serbian claims that what takes place there is purely an internal matter.  International diplomacy has therefore swung into action to head off an impending tragedy which is already being called a “second Bosnia”.

The clamp-down was ostensibly in response to the killings of several Serb policemen and concentrated on the Drenica region, the triangle formed by the municipalities of Srbica (Skenderaj), Klina (Kline) and Glogovac (Gllogovc) in the centre of Kosovo. Since the emergence of an armed Kosovar resistance movement last year, that region in particular had experienced a rising tide of violence and increasingly appeared beyond the control of the Serbian authorities. If the clamp-down was supposed to stamp out Kosovar opposition to Belgrade rule, it is already clear that it has failed. Instead of destroying a separatist movement, it has boosted Kosovar determination to win independence and created 80 martyrs for the cause. Kosovar protesters now demonstrate their opposition to Serbian rule on a daily basis in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, as well as the province’s other major cities, in the hope that the international community will deliver them from oppression.

The upsurge of violence has generated an unparalleled level of interest in Kosovo in the international media, offering Kosovars a golden opportunity to put their point of view across. Having endured apartheid-style rule in virtual silence for most of the past decade, they have seized the opportuity with relish. Cameramen are now treated on a daily basis to colourful public demonstrations, like women’s marches, the waving of blank sheets of paper, and the carrying of English-language banners. The Croatian and Bosnian wars have taught all ethnic groups of the former Yugoslavia the importance of good press, and Kosovars are becoming aware that images of Serbian police brutality across the world promote their cause better than any amount of lobbying.

Media-driven diplomacy and simplistic, instantaneous analysis of a crisis which has been simmering for the past decade and bode ill for prospects of a lasting and peaceful solution. If a settlement is to be found which preserves stability in the region and also reconciles the legitimate interests of both Serb and Kosovar communities, it requires a depth of understanding of the conflict which clearly does not exist at present. Hence this in-depth analysis of the conflict, which ICG hopes will serve as a timely tool to policy-makers.

The report examines the evolution of relations between Serbs and Kosovars in Kosovo, the importance of the region to both communities and their competing claims. Since 1989 when Serbia forcibly stripped Kosovo of autonomy, a parallel Kosovar society has emerged within the province which exists almost completely outside the Serbian state. The report assesses the significance and sustainability of the parallel institutions, in particular the education and health care systems. It also critically analyses Kosovar politics and the policies of the undisputed Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova who charted the non-violent course which, until very recently, all Kosovars obediently followed. If Kosovar elections do go ahead as scheduled on 22 March, Rugova will surely be re-elected president, since he is the only candidate standing. Special sections are devoted to the economy, media and the Kosovo Liberation Army, UCK.

The report considers Kosovo in its regional context, in relations to Serbia, Yugoslavia, Albania and the entire Balkan region. It examines initial diplomatic attempts to head off further fighting and find a solution. And it analyses the relative merits of the various solutions -- ranging from maintaining the status quo to full independence -- which are currently on offer.  In a final section ICG presents a series of recommendations which, if taken up by policy-makers, could contribute to an eventual settlement in Kosovo. Appendices at the end include a chronology and a who’s who of Kosovo political life.

Pristina/Sarajevo, 20 March 1998

How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue

Online Event to discuss Crisis Group's report "Relaunching the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue", in which we discussed what currently stands in the way of a new status quo and what it will take to relaunch the process with the Pristina elections in view.

Thirteen years after Kosovo broke away from Serbia, the two countries remain mired in mutual non-recognition, with deleterious effects on both. The parties need to move past technicalities to tackle the main issues at stake: Pristina’s independence and Belgrade’s influence over Kosovo’s Serbian minority.

In this conversation, we discussed what currently stands in the way of a new status quo and what it will take to relaunch the process with the Pristina elections in view.

How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue (Online Event, 28th January 2021)

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