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November 28, 2007

The Balkans back to the brink
Posted by Max Bergmann

All appeared right in the Balkans just a few years back. The pull of European Union membership created momentum for reconciliation and reform in Bosnia and to a lesser degree in Serbia. The issue of Kosovo's independence was still a stickler, but it looked like a resolution was possible. Now the region is on the brink of sliding backwards. The BBC reports:

Serbs and ethnic Albanians have failed to resolve the future status of Kosovo at a final round of internationally-brokered talks.

The real question is what happens next. Once isolated, Serbia has now gained an ally in a resurgent Russia that is willing to stick a finger in the eye of the U.S. and Europe. If Kosovo declares independence from Serbia unilaterally, Russia would likely block U.S. and European efforts to recognize Kosovo at the security council. But there is a larger danger that the Kosovo dispute could spill into Bosnia. The fear is that the Republika Srpska (the Serb entity in Bosnia), could be prompted to declare its independence from Bosnia - effectively destroying the Dayton peace agreement and leaving the Balkans in flux.

What to do? Richard Holbrooke wrote an important oped this weekend where he calls for Bush to...

make one last, personal effort with Putin. His efforts must be backed by temporary additional troop deployments in the region. It is not too late to prevent violence, but it will take American-led action and time is running out.

This to me has it right, but it leaves out the role of the EU. Ultimately this issue is about what direction Serbia wants to go. Do they want to continue on the path toward membership in the European Union or do they want to ally with Russia and remain isolated from the EU and the west.

While Oli Rhen the EU's enlargement commissioner has stated that "A new European dawn is in the making in Serbia," mixed signals from some EU members, especially from France's President Niklas Sarkozy who has cautioned against future enlargement, creates hesitancy among those striving for European membership. Why make difficult reforms to join the EU, if there is a decent chance they won't let you in. The EU needs to send a strong signal to Serbia - you make the reforms and accept Kosovo's independence you will get in. You don't, you won't. While Bush needs to pick up the phone to pressure Putin, he also needs to give Sarkozy a call as well.


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I think Holbrooke would respond that this would be a useful step in the event the Bush administration does what he suggests, and has no chance of happening if it does not. He would know from his experience with the last decade's Balkan wars that it's pointless to expect Europeans to do anything useful on their own.

"The fear is that the Republika Srpska (the Serb entity in Bosnia), could be prompted to declare its independence from Bosnia"

Why is that a fear ,why albanians can declare independance and on the land which is for 1000 of years part of serbia and Republica Srpska(95% serbs) can't.Why forcing serb republic to live in the same country with muslims when they don't want and on the other side giving muslims right to take part of serbia.Do albanians have same more rights than serbs.This hate in the west against serbs is realy crazy

Yeah, you know, maybe Bush could just look Putin in the eye and see into his soul again and figure this whole thing out.

Uh... no we can't send more troops into the Balkans. We can't send more troops anywhere. We're overextended.

And... if these people want independent countries, why are we trying to stop them? It should be up to them, not us.

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