The assassination of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic threatens to derail the "normalization" negotiations between Belgrade and its breakaway province. The victim was shot several times outside of his party headquarters in northern Kosovo and died on the spot, sending shockwaves through the Balkans as the Serbian government decried the killing as a terrorist attack and announced that it will be immediately suspending its talks with Pristina. The successful completion of the "normalization" process between the two parties is a prerequisite for both of them to join the EU, and Serbian President Vucic, a former "nationalist"-turned-Europhile, said that the process won't be resumed until Belgrade is satisfied with the outcome of the investigation and the perpetrator is brought to justice.
It's not yet known exactly who assassinated Ivanovic or for what reasons, but Vucic was adamant that this was an attack on all Serbs because of the powerful symbolism that it entails. The breakaway province of Kosovo, which has been under NATO occupation since the bloc's 1999 war on the former Yugoslavia, is essentially a lawless mafia state with severe human rights violations committed by the Albanians against its indigenous Serbian minority, including organ harvesting during the conflict and even the destruction of churches. Serbs live as second-class citizens on what is historically — and legally —their own land, and Ivanovic's cold-blooded killing in broad daylight reminded the world of this pitiful fact.
In spite of the Serbs' daily struggle for survival in Kosovo, Belgrade had been engaging in more or less smooth "normalization" negotiations with Kosovo over the last couple of years for what the government's proponents have argued are pragmatic reasons in making the best of a bad situation, but which also strategically serve to advance Vucic's vision of one day joining the EU. The suspension of this process demonstrates just how seriously Belgrade is taking Ivanovic's assassination and responding to the public's outrage over it, as there's little else that could have happened to get the government to put its treasured Euro-integrational plans on hold. Even so, it remains to be seen whether this is just a temporary reaction or the beginning of a comprehensive reconsideration of Serbia's strategic direction.
Stefan Karganovic, Political analyst currently based in the Netherlands, and Gil Matos-Sequi, American political commentator based in Zurich, commented on the issue.
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