By Pradyut Hande:
Since time immemorial, history has unfailingly taught us many a lesson. One such lesson of grave significance is the well chronicled arduousness associated with tackling critical simmering bilateral or cross-regional tensions across the globe. On Wednesday, bilateral talks between the Balkan States of Kosovo and Serbia over the contentious status of Serb-dominated Northern Kosovo, ended; failing in its endeavour to break the ensuing deadlock between the bickering nations. Mediated by the European Union, the talks were supposed to find at least a temporary solution to the diplomatic quagmire that continues to threaten the stability of an already volatile region.
It was back in 2008 that Kosovo, a former district of independent Serbia, chose to break away from its parent nation and announced its independence. Kosovo’s decision did reaffirm contemporary confidence in the age old tenets of Liberty and Freedom of Democratic Process and subsequently, was recognised as an independent nation. This clearly did not go down well with Serbia who refused to recognise its independent status. However, that is not where the impasse ends. Northern Kosovo which is home to almost 50,000 Serbs has become a problematic region for Kosovo, adding to its woes, what with the resident Serbs refusing to recognise the autonomy of the Kosovan central government based in its capital of Pristina. The obstinacy of this populace is further emboldening other minority populations in the region like the Hungarians, Albanians and Bosnians who are gradually clamouring for autonomy to safeguard their own interests. This development will only compound Kosovo’s problems if not resolved urgently in the near future.
The stakes are a little higher for Serbia in this regard. In order to secure a permanent membership with the European Union – something it has been attempting to secure for a while now – Serbia needs to “normalise” relations with all its neighbours. A failure to do so will continue to scupper its chances of being a part of the EU. The ongoing dispute may have tarnished its growing reputation as an emerging economy of note in the troubled region. However, even a temporary resolution to this crisis coupled with a willingness to work closely and cohesively with its neighbours will go a long way in furthering its position as a regional leader. The sheer divisive nature of the region driven by multiple ethnic groups and sub-groups will always contribute to its instability. But it is in the best interests of the concerned states to at least strive towards establishing a semblance of normalcy. That is easier said than done, though.
The next few weeks promise to be an important phase for both Serbia and Kosovo what with the high stakes involved. The mere recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by Serbia would go a long way in marginally alleviating the air of mutual distrust.