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Kosovo Opinion

July 29, 2011

The latest border conflict between Kosovo and Serbia shows that peace is a long way off. Nationalists on both sides do not want a resolution, says DW’s Verica Spasovska. But the violence could hurt Serbia's EU bid.

https://p.dw.com/p/126Ka

The latest outbreak of violence comes at an unfortunate time for Serbian president Boris Tadic. By handing a suspected war criminal, former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic, to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague last week, Tadic secured important points for Belgrade's EU hopes and may be allowed to start accession talks by the end of the year.

But now escalating violence in Kosovo threatens to derail the process. Arguments about flags, stamps and symbols have drawn new attention to the unsolved Kosovo problem.

All this shows that the disputes surrounding the world's youngest nation are far from being settled amicably. However, a peaceful coexistence with Serbia's Balkan neighbor is a condition for EU membership. Brussels already has its hands full dealing with the financial crisis in Europe and does not want deal with a potential second Cyprus.

From trade war to political crisis

The images of burning border posts are marring Tadic's efforts to persuade the EU that Serbia presents a reliable, stabilizing influence in the Balkans. Negative headlines only serve to weaken the government's image both domestically and abroad. That's more enough reason why Tadic has no interest at all in an escalation of violence in Kosovo.

Headshot of Verica Spasovska
Verica Spasovska is from DW's Southeast Europe department

The violence is more likely being stirred by forces within Serbia who stand to profit from a divided Kosovo: opportunistic nationalists who are using the power vacuum in Northern Kosovo to pursue their own agendas involving smuggling and other criminal activities.

Serbia's Interior Minister Ivica Dacic has also inflamed the conflict by demanding Kosovo's partition. It is obviously a strategic goal of Belgrade to maintain a Kosovo that is de facto split in order to exploit it as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

Not a good EU strategy for both nations

Speculations that Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci might have had a hand in provoking the latest power struggles are by no means off course. Because unlike Belgrade, which is being held out a carrot by the EU for its readiness to hold talks with Kosovo, Thaci has no such motivation. It is quite possible that he wants to use the situation to demonstrate his power. But going it alone like this is playing with fire. The EU expects reliable policies from its future members and not nasty surprises.

The escalation of violence in Kosovo is evidence of just how fragile peace in the region is. It also underscores the need that the international community must remain present for years, not just to guarantee security but also to help build up states governed by the rule of law.

Both sides – Belgrade and Pristina – are well advised to do everything possible to find a peaceful solution. Playing with fire like this can only mean taking a step back on the way towards the European Union.

Author: Verica Spasovska (lyf)
Editor: Kyle James

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