Since Brussels returned to the Balkan political quagmire, EU officials have been pushing Serbia and Kosovo to find a mutually acceptable solution by the end of 2018. The renewed sense of urgency follows the 2025 deadline for Serbia and Montenegro’s accession.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Balkan’s biggest nation and its breakaway province are now further apart than they have ever been since EU-mediated talks began in 2013. As in other similar conflicts, extreme nationalist ideologues are often rattled by the reality of a possible political settlement as it may ultimately expose numerous opaque connections between politics and questionable practices and interests. Diplomatic incidents, low-level violence, and the revival of aggressive nationalist vocabulary in influential media make any agreement more difficult by raising the price of compromise.

Furthermore, the presence of non-EU actors with their own conflicting interests further contributes to overall instability and a general state of confusion.

Crucially, without a political solution, the dispute will turn into a frozen conflict that risks the political, economic and social future of both Serbia and Kosovo.