The war in Ukraine has created a situation in which the Republic of Serbia may see an opportunity to take up some unfinished business; for this purpose, Serbia has recently been purchasing armaments from Russia and China and has sought also to purchase
12 fighter jets from France. The Serbian government does not recognize the sovereignty of Kosovo and regards the land controlled by Prishtina as rightfully Serbian, while the Republika Srpska (the Serb part of Bosnia-Herzegovina) has sought for years to secede from union with the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and to unite with
Serbia. The weapons may figure as a way to pressure and intimidate the Albanians of Kosovo to return to the negotiating table and to present the Bosnian government in Sarajevo with a fait accompli.
According to Freedom House, those southeast European states which have joined the European Union are “free” while the rest are “partly free.” For ordinary citizens, the most important issues are corruption, unemployment, and poverty. There is an approximate correlation between Freedom House’s assessments of democratic attainment and local perceptions of corruption: the more corrupt the country, the less democratic it is likely to be. The media are crucial players in politics, but have sometimes been corrupted by special interests or by the politicians themselves. Overall, taking into account also tolerance, levels of gender equality, and poverty, among other factors, Slovenia is doing the best in the region, while Kosovo remains in last place.
Serbia and Kosovo have initiated a process of territorial exchange that could have serious repercussions, both in the Western Balkans and internationally. Historically speaking, territorial exchanges have a mixed record. In some instances, these projects have inaugurated periods of protracted cooperation and reconciliation. However, on a number of occasions, such agreements have had devastating consequences and have led to carnage, violence, and ethnic cleansing. Whereas Serbia and Kosovo have the sovereign and democratic right to engage in a genuine dialogue and decide on adjustments to their borders, it is important for the international community to pay close attention to the dynamics of the process and to consider the stability and security of the wider region should this project materialize.