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.
Following collapse of coalition govt in March, President Thaçi 1 April consulted party leaders on formation of new unity govt. Thaçi 19 April announced need for further steps to form new govt, as outgoing PM Kurti’s Vetëvendosje party called for new elections as soon as possible. Isa Mustafa, leader of former coalition partner Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), 14 April said party stood ready to form new governing coalition with smaller parties as soon as it receives official mandate from president; Thaçi 23 April gave LDK mandate to form new govt; LDK same day nominated former Deputy PM Avdullah Hoti as its candidate for PM. Thaçi 30 April formally nominated Hoti as PM; thirty Vetëvendosje party legislators filed legal complaint with Constitutional Court to challenge nomination, claiming Vetëvendosje is only party permitted to form new govt. Kurti 20 April accused U.S. envoy Richard Grenell of being “directly involved” in collapse of his coalition govt. Kurti 1 April confirmed decision to lift 100% tariffs on import of Serbian goods until 15 June; in response to announcement, Director of Serbia’s office for Kosovo Marko Djurić same day said that Kurti “did not abolish fees” and he rather conditionally suspended taxes. Outgoing Health Minister Arben Vitia 13 April announced intensification of COVID-19 prevention measures until 4 May, introducing stricter curfew; LDK condemned new measures as continuation of “legal and constitutional violations”. Despite ongoing bilateral tensions, Serbia 17 April delivered over 1,000 COVID-19 test kits to Kosovo as sign of “solidarity”.
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