Sunday

19th Nov 2017

Magazine

EU defuses Balkan time bomb

  • The Kosovo-Serbia deal was clinched in the salons of Brussels (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

Local elections in Balkan towns rarely make international headlines.

But when masked men used baseball bats to smash ballot boxes in Kosovo's north Mitrovica one Sunday in November, the world took note.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Eulex, the EU police mission in Kosovo, holds Senevicius ceremony (Photo: eulex-kosovo.eu)

It was, perhaps, the last gasp of die-hard ethnic Serbs who reject Pristina's rule after a monumental deal between Kosovo and Serbia, brokered in the salons of the EU foreign service in Brussels.

Behind one woman who chaired the meetings, EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton, stood another woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who told Belgrade it can forget EU accession if it keeps funding the paramilitaries who threaten to tear Kosovo in two.

The deal claimed one life: on 19 September, gunmen opened fire on an EU vehicle in north Kosovo, killing Audrius Senavicius, a Lithuanian policeman and father of two.

It could have been much worse.

Croatia this year followed Slovenia in joining the EU.

But 14 years after the Balkan wars, the region is still a Pandora's Box of ethnic grudges.

Before the 2013 deal, the EU and the US considered semi-autonomy for north Kosovo on the model of Catalonia, a Spanish region.

But the idea risked igniting calls for secession by ethnic Serbs in Bosnia and by ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and Serbia. "In the Balkans, everybody still has guns buried in the woods," one Albanian politician from Macedonia said.

Instead, Serbian PM Ivica Dacic vowed to bring Senavicius' killers to justice. He also went to Mitrovica to stop baseball bats at a re-vote.

Five EU countries do not recognise Kosovo and Spain, for one, is unlikely to do so in the run-up to Catalonia's independence referendum next year.

But full normality for Kosovo is beginning to look realistic.

The EU deal has also seen Serbia accept Kosovo ID cards, let Kosovo control customs points and host a Kosovo "envoy" in Belgrade. Kosovo's foreign minister Enver Hoxhaj said it is "de facto recognition." His deputy, Petrit Selimi, says EU non-recognisers are coming round: "They did not want to be more Catholic than the Pope."

Kosovo-Serbia aside, the region has a long way to go before it becomes "European."

Joining the EU did not stop Croatia from sheltering alleged war criminals or trampling on liberal values by making gay marriage illegal.

EU aspirations did not stop political deadlock in Albania and Bosnia.

They did not stop Macedonia's PM from erecting statues of Alexander the Great in a nationalist pantomime which antagonises both ethnic Albanians and neighbouring Greece.

Some problems - organised crime, 45 percent unemployment - will take many years to overcome. Other problems will take generations.

But the EU-brokered deal defused the biggest threat to stability: Serbia is no longer a pariah, Kosovo no longer risks partition.

"Our people became big losers in the dissolution of former Yugoslavia … Serbia did not deserve such treatment by the international community," Dacic said on the eve of the EU accord.

"We will continue the dialogue. We will continue it all of our lives. We haven't been talking to each other since the fall of the Ottoman empire, so we have some catching up to do," Selimi said.

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2013 Europe in Review Magazine.

Click here to read previous editions of Europe in Review magazines.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse