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COMMENTS 

What the people of Nagorno-Karabakh think about the future of their homeland

The disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakah has been caught in a tug-of-war between Armenia and Azerbaijan for decades. Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, it’s home to an estimated 120,000 people, primarily ethnic Armenians, who want to separate from Azerbaijan. It’s been a de facto independent state since a fragile ceasefire was brokered in 1994, and low-level violence has flared up every spring ever since.
3 May 2016
Kristin M. Bakke
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Starts: May 3, 2016 12:00:00 AM

Migration, the lightning rod of the EU referendum

The EU-Turkey deal should have no role in the Brexit debate, yet it brings the crucial question of the European Union and migration into focus at an inopportune time.
14 April 2016
Uta Staiger
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Starts: Apr 14, 2016 12:00:00 AM

Unsettling times for a settled population? Polish perspectives on Brexit

Many Poles have lived, worked, and settled in the UK for up to 12 years now. Anne White, Professor of Polish Studies at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, says it’s no longer so easy for them to pick up and leave.
14 April 2016
Anne White
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Starts: Apr 14, 2016 12:00:00 AM

Former Enemies in Historic Agreement?

Publication date: Apr 25, 2013 11:28 AM

Start: Mar 03, 2013 12:00 AM

B Aleksov

Dr Bojan Aleksov
April 2013

It is too early to tell whether the recently signed agreement between Serbia and Kosovo is indeed as historic as advertised by the European Union negotiators, most notably Catherine Ashton. Many a deal brokered in last 25 years between warring parties in what used to be Yugoslavia faltered before ever given a chance to be implemented. It is perhaps a twist of irony that its co-signatories for long contributed to if not created the conflict they are now attempting to resolve.

On the Serbian side, Prime Minister Ivica Dačić rose the ranks in the Serbian Socialist party, becoming its spokesman from 1992-2000 under mentorship of former Serbia’s President Slobodan Milošević, indicted for war crimes Serbian troops committed in Kosovo among other places. On his side were also Serbia’s current President Tomislav Nikolić and Vice Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, both former top executives of the extremist Serbian Radical Party, whose leader Vojislav Šešelj is awaiting sentence at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The Kosovar signatory was Hashim Thaci, current Prime Minister and wartime political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), for long a terrorist formation in the eyes of Western powers, but rapidly transformed into a ‘liberation force’ prior to NATO intervention in 1999. Just like the Serbian leaders were responsible for years of apartheid against Kosovo Albanians and eventually an all-out war waged in 1998-1999, Thaci presided over massive ethnic cleansing and KLA-committed crimes against Serbian civilians in the aftermath of the NATO intervention that had expelled the Serbian forces. Recently, a Council of Europe document charged this former KLA commander with serious human rights abuses, including organ and drug trafficking.

So why believe that the same people would keep their word and bring about a peaceful and just resolution of decades of conflict? I certainly don’t. But then: have not all accords concerning former Yugoslavia signed so far under Western assistance and mentorship involved nationalist leaders and war lords – including those deemed successful, such as the Dayton, Erdut and Ohrid agreements? On the one hand, they brought about stability and cessation of hostilities and thus satisfied their Western patrons, be it EU, NATO or the Contact Group (big powers). On the other, they enabled the continuous but silent  ethnic  cleansing and discrimination, contributed to socio-political paralysis and legitimized nationalist leadership. Years and decades after these agreements were signed, most of the Western Balkans continues to be steeped in insecurity, interethnic conflict and threatening economic catastrophe. And yet no sign that international intervention and assistance, personified by EU and US brokerage of agreements like the one signed in Brussels last week, is changing. What is needed is a radical transformation of international intervention and assistance; one that will be driven by prevention rather than reaction to crisis and that will widen the range and power of stakeholders it involves, targets and rewards, beyond those seen as the only legitimate leaders. 

This time around the incentive was the prospect of EU integration for Serbia (and to some extent Kosovo). Given the devastating socio-economic position of both Serbia and Kosovo, the reliance on the EU is understandable. But in order for it to work it would require a long term commitment and assistance that the deeply shaken and conflict-ridden EU is hardly able to offer.  As it stands, all the odds are against the agreement – except that it is much needed for the people of both Serbia and Kosovo, in order to start looking and moving toward future peace and prosperity, rather than the conflict and hate that destroyed the lives of so many generations.