USIP was engaged in the Balkans from 1996-2010, starting in Bosnia immediately after the signing of the Dayton Accords, and later expanding its activities to Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.
Over a decade after the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia, the remaining threats to peace stem mainly from Bosnia and Kosovo, where stability still depends on an international community.
Bosnia is a nonfunctioning state living under the constant threat of its autonomous Serb entity to hold a referendum on independence. Western oversight has failed to ease the tensions among ethnic groups. The wounds of war are still raw. Newly independent Kosovo barely functions after a decade of U.N. rule. It has high unemployment and little foreign investment and needs enormous foreign assistance. The largely Serb-inhabited northern part of Kosovo continues to be run from Belgrade without vigorous objections from the EU or the U.S. This in effect partitions the fragile Kosovo state and cements continued ethnic tensions.
Elsewhere in the region, additional risks persist. Nationalist tendencies are still present in Serbia proper, where the desire to reassert sovereignty over Kosovo remains strong. Macedonia has made significant progress in bringing the two ethnic groups (Macedonian and Albanian) to work together and move forward. Nevertheless, it has witnessed occasional incidents of violence and lately growing nationalism on both sides.
Ethnic intolerance, unstable governments, slow reform processes, and crime and corruption are plaguing the Balkans. Only continuing joint efforts by the EU and U.S. stand a chance of stemming the drift towards disorder.
USIP is working in the Balkans:
- to foster dialogue about U.S. policy and engagement in the region and encourage reform and movement toward EU membership through its Balkans Working Group
- to train local OSCE staff on important conflict management skills through its Education and Training Center/International
- to derive and disseminate lessons learned from the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) through its International Network to Promote the Rule of Law