James Forsyth

The danger of another Balkans war

The danger of another Balkans war
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 Andrew Rawnsley has an important piece in the Observer this morning about how conflict could again break out in the Balkans. The issue this time is the final status of Kosovo. The Americans favour independence for Kosovo, the Russians oppose it and the EU is mostly for it but with conditions. 

As Rawnsley explains,

“Time is now very short. The mandate for the EU's peacekeeping force in Bosnia expires this week and it is contested whether it can legally continue if the Russians wield their veto. There is a 10 December deadline for agreement in Kosovo. It is almost universally expected there won't be any agreement. Then the really scary stuff threatens to start happening.

The Kosovans are talking about making a unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. That could set off an explosive chain reaction throughout the western Balkans as the Serb minority in Kosovo revolts and the government in Belgrade backs a breakaway by the Serbs in Bosnia.”

Such a series of events would, almost inevitably, drag the region into war. Resolving a conflict now would be far harder than it was in the 1990s; the Russians are far more obstructionist, the American military more over-stretched and European publics even more wary of committing troops to war. 

It was always thought that offering Serbia EU membership would be enough to persuade it to accept Kosovo’s independence. But with the prospects for further EU expansion looking pretty grim, this solution isn’t really on the table any more. Creative diplomacy will be needed to break this log-jam.  

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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