Global Policy Forum

The Balkans


Emerging States & Claims to Autonomy and Independence


balkanspicture credit: the Reu Genealogy pages



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EU pressure causes Bosnian Serbs to cancel referendum (May 13, 2011) 

The President of Bosnia's Republika Srpska party, Milorad Dodik, has announced he will not proceed with a planned referendum on the judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The decision follows a scathing report by Valentin Inzk, the UN’s high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The country is currently divided into two political entities, the Serbian Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Republika Srpska has accused domestic judicial institutions of unfairly processing war crimes.  High Representative Inzk had said that Republika Srpska’s decision to call a referendum threatened the functionality and sustainability of Bosnia and Herzegovina and violated the Dayton-Paris peace agreement, bringing the country on the brink of collapse. Whilst Dodik’s decision has been well received by most, some have suggested that Serb, Croat, and Bosniak ultra-nationalism can only dissipate with meaningful domestic reconciliation and contend that this is not possible under current state structures.  (Hurriyet Daily News)

Bosnia in Worst Crisis Since War as Serb Leader Calls Referendum (April 28, 2011)

The threat of secession from Bosnian Serbs is causing crisis in Bosnia. Milorad Dodik, leader of the Bosnian Serbs has called a referendum on whether to reject Bosnia’s state war crimes court and special prosecutor’s office, which has been imposed by international decree. The country, which is currently divided into two political entities, the Serbian Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, could potentially be split should the referendum exacerbate ethnic tensions. This article highlights how the referendum is a direct attack on the Dayton settlement, the agreement which officially ended the Bosnian war in 1995.  (Guardian)



Germany Urges Serbia to Accept Kosovo (August 27, 2010)

This week, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle encouraged Serbia to stop challenging Kosovo's push for independent statehood. Instead, he urged the Balkan state to focus its efforts on the goal of obtaining membership in the European Union, which would require "dialogue about practical issues." To date, 69 countries worldwide, including 22 EU nations, have recognized Kosovo's independence. Westerwelle's speech at University of Belgrade suggests that the international community is increasingly moving in the direction of recognizing Kosovo's independence, despite Serbia's ongoing opposition.  (SETimes)



The Fragile Balkans (October 2, 2009)

The Srpska Parliament - representing the Bosnian Serbs - has approved a decision to suspend all Serbian participation in Bosnian state institutions. In fact the Bosnian Serb leadership has for some time been engaging in a "creeping secession" from Bosnia. Meanwhile Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovan independence, does its best to strengthen ties with Srpska.  (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)




The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on Kosovar Independence (July 21, 2008)

This article argues that European countries and international organizations obstruct Kosovo's path to full independence. The UN Security Council must clarify the UN's role in the north of the country as well as the European Union's (EU) presence south of the Ibar River. Further, the author urges the EU to refuse membership to Serbia unless it recognizes an independent Kosovo. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Kosovo to Kashmir: The Self-Determination Dilemma (May 22, 2008)

While the US and some European powers generally promote regional stability over calls for self-determination, they were quick to recognize Kosovo's independence. Other countries such as India, China, and Canada now worry that Kosovo's independence will strengthen the state-seeking movements within their countries. But, without strong backing from the US and major European countries, those movements will not succeed in gaining independence. (openDemocracy)

The Slow Birth of a Nation (April 24, 2008)

Kosovo, the self-proclaimed European nation, has one of the world's worst trade balances and suffers from 75 percent youth unemployment. The problematic economic situation slows down the building of the new country but does not constitute the only factor hampering its development. The author warns that the clan-based political structure and corrupt political leaders endanger the establishment of a constitutional nation. (Der Spiegel)

A Postmodern Declaration (February 19, 2008)

This Guardian article highlights the artificial nature of the new self-declared country Kosovo. The EU plans to appoint an International Civilian Representative with the ability to "correct or annul decisions by the Kosovo public authorities." NATO has 16,000 troops on the ground and the new country shelters a US military camp. The author argues that this postmodern state will in practice be nothing more than a "US-EU protectorate."

The Kosovo Debate: Beyond the Headlines (February 19, 2008)

This FRIDE article discusses the arguments of critics and supporters of Kosovo's independence. Supporting Kosovo's independence, the author contends that its creation will not lead to an escalation in violence nor will it create a precedent for national minorities in other countries. Kosovo does, however, face serious economic and political challenges. And the author argues that the EU needs to provide financial support and to commit to strengthen Kosovo's political institutions.



Birth of a Nation: But Will Kosovo Spark Another Balkan Crisis? (December 11, 2007)

International mediators have failed to reach a negotiated solution about Kosovo's future, leaving the UN, the EU, Kosovo and Serbia, at a stalemate. Serbia does not want to give up Kosovo any less than Kosovo wants to stay with Serbia. Apart from the sovereignty issue, the UN protectorate also has some very pressing problems, such as massive unemployment, corruption and poverty. (Independent)

Cold War Deja Vu in Kosovo (December 6, 2007)

In early 2007, Kosovo's independence seemed inevitable as both the US and the EU made it clear they would support a declaration of independence. But, after almost a year, independence appears less likely as Russia is opposing Security Council recognition of Kosovo. Moscow has many reasons to back Serbia, says this Los Angeles Times article. Russians share a cultural bond with the Serbs and they want to reassert their regional authority. But most importantly, Moscow is afraid of Kosovo creating a precedent for the Chechnyans and other Russian minorities.

'Peace in Kosovo Was Never More than a Ceasefire' (November 19, 2007)

Former guerilla leader Hashim Thaci won Kosovo elections which means he could be Kosovo's next prime minister. But less than half of the people of Kosovo turned out to vote, with the ethnic Serbs boycotting the election altogether. Thaci has said he will declare independence on December 10, the day set for the mediators to give recommendations to the UN regarding the future of the UN protectorate. But independence will not come easy, as the Russians will veto it in the Security Council. (Der Spiegel)

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (October 2007)

This Monthly Review article tells the story of a dismantled Yugoslavia, where not only internal problems, but also external political pressure, especially from the US, tore the country apart. According to the article, the US - acting through NATO - legitimized the military interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo by calling them "humanitarian interventions." At the time, the Security Council did not approve the interventions, but it later provided the US with an ex post facto legitimacy. The authors argue that Western media and politicians have simplified the history of the Balkan civil wars, portraying the wars as a battle between good and evil, while neglecting the role and interests of the US.


US and EU are Ready to Recognize Kosovo Independence (September 24, 2007)

Kosovo will declare itself independent if talks with Serbia reach a dead-end by December 2007. The US and the EU have said they will support independence, even though some EU members fear that Kosovo could set a precedent for Turkish Cypriots, ethnic Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia, in short - all the ethnic minorities in Europe and Russia. The Kremlin resists Kosovar independence and prefers to keep the issue inside the UN Security Council where Russia could use its veto. At the same time, Serbian politicians say they will never accept Kosovo's independence, since the region is the cradle of Serb civilization. (International Herald Tribune)


Patience Runs Thin as Kosovo Albanians Await Independence (June 24, 2007)

This International Herald Tribune article reports that discussions on the future of an independent Kosovo are at an impasse. The article warns that the unlikelihood of a UN agreement anytime soon is having repercussions in Kosovo, which include violence and the rise of politically extreme groups and is threatening the region's fragile stability. The US and Europe assured Kosovo Albanians that they will have their own country, but Serbia insists that the territory should remain its province. Meanwhile, Russia says it will not let the UN impose independence against the Serbs' will.


UN Offers Plan for Kosovo's Independence (January 27, 2007)

The United Nations mediator Martti Ahtisaari is privately discussing his recommendations for the final status of Kosovo with the main actors of the Contact Group. His proposals would allow the region to declare independence from Serbia, but would be subject to continued international supervision. Subject to Security Council approval, the former province could have the right to enter into some international agreements and join world organizations as a sovereign state as well as eventually having its own army. NATO troops are set to stay, whilst another international organization with executive powers over the new state will replace the UN mission there. (New York Times)



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