Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The importance of the Serbia-Kosovo deal is yet to be realised

Springtime is a precarious time in the Balkans. It is a time of agitation, oftentimes unrest, and sometimes open and deadly conflict. Looking at more recent history, hostilities in the Croatian war of independence from Yugoslavia broke out in March 1991; the war in Bosnia began a year later, in the spring of 1992; and the conflict between Serbia and NATO over Kosovo erupted in full force in March 1999. Conflict and unrest have regularly occurred afterwards, always in the time of spring – in Macedonia in 2001 and in Kosovo in the form of ethnic clashes, blockades and tensions.

What makes the spring of 2013 different is that it witnessed an agitation of a slightly different nature. For the majority of interested parties and observers, the deal for improvement of relations between Serbia and Kosovo of 19 April is a giant step forward in the ‘normalisation’ of politics and democratisation in the Balkans. It is one of the most important reconciliation achievements in the geographic domain of the former Yugoslavia, one of the last sore wounds long waiting to be healed. Western diplomats, policy makers, observers, mainstream Kosovo and Serbia political factors, as well as neighbouring Balkan leaders all praised the reached agreement. For others – extreme nationalist elements in the north of Kosovo, where an ethnic Serb enclave exists, similar-minded people in Belgrade and their Albanian counterparts in Prishtina – the agitation of spring 2013 is negative in nature. They denounced the deal and promised to fight it.