Economic crisis has overshadowed Kosovo's status in Serbia's presidential campaign. But there might be hope for a resolution to the tense situation between the two sides once a new president takes office in Belgrade.
Ahead of Serbia's parliamentary, presidential and local elections, the country's disastrous economic situation was a major campaign issue.
That secured almost 80 percent of the vote for pro-European parties that pledged to improve the situation. Meanwhile, it seemed no one was interested in Kosovo.
Dusan Reljic of the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs said people have adjusted to reality in Kosovo.
"Most of Serbia's political parties have recognized how limited their leeway is," Reljic told DW, "particularly because of the attitude of the US and key EU countries like Germany, Britain or France."
Relic added this does not mean Kosovo has disappeared from Serbia's political stage. But he thinks whether Kosovo reappears in Serbian politics will largely depend on how safe and stable Kosovo remains.
Kosovo authorities satisfied
People living in the northern Kosovo were allowed to participate in Serbia's national and presidential balloting. On election day, the mood was tense in a part of Kosovo mostly settled by Serbs, but there were no major incidents. Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe OSCE organized and coordinated the vote.
Kosovo's government welcomed the vote and said it was successful. The body considered it important for Serbs within Kosovo not to get their own special ballot. In previous voting, Serbs in Kosovo were considered the same as Serbs in the homeland. But this time, Serbs in Kosovo were treated as a de facto diaspora.
Initiative or inertia?
This difference is a significant turn of events. Kosovar analyst Baton Hadschiu said the recent vote will bring about "a new Serbian concept of Kosovo," because "voters have honored the European concept of Serbians [living] in Kosovo."
Hadschiu said incumbent Serbian President Boris Tadic will get a chance "to free Serbia from outdated ideas about Kosovo."
Tadic faces ex-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic in an election runoff on May 20. Hadschiu said only then will it become clear whether Serbia really aspires to a new view of Kosovo.
However, Reljic does not expect Serbia to take a new approach to Kosovo. He said that Belgrade does not have any plans for a new solution to the Kosovo situation, let alone the intention of recognizing Kosovo as a state.
"Belgrade is not in a position to make proposals," Reljic said, "but must react to requirements from the US and the EU. Right now, Belgrade is on the defensive in regard to Kosovo."
Hadschiu is decisively more optimistic. He said he expects that "Serbia will initiate a new model for communicating with Kosovo. That means a quick dialogue to solve the problem of northern Kosovo could be on the way."
Dividing line mooted
Right now, no one knows what a solution to the problem might look like. One possibility is to partition Kosovo. Serbians living in northern Kosovo do not want to recognize Kosovo's independence. They have built up an independent administration while striving to break off from the rest of Kosovo and join the Serbian "motherland."
Partitioning Kosovo would be a controversial decision
However, Reljic said an official partition of Kosovo unrealistic since the Serbian constitution designates the territory an inseparable part of Serbia.
"For a government to seriously propose dividing Kosovo, it would first have to change the constitution," he added.
Moreover, the idea has powerful opponents abroad.
"Right now, both the US and the EU are strongly against a partition," Reljic said. "They are afraid that could have negative consequences on neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina or Macedonia."
However, the expert said Pristina and Belgrade could agree to a "de facto diving line" in Kosovo. Reljic said the specific boundary would have to be worked out in direct talks between the two sides.
"The main point is for these talks to lead to further normalization in the area of Kosovo," he concluded.
Author: Bahri Cani/srs
Editor: Andreas Illmer