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Bosnia, Kosovo Tensions Threaten Balkan Stability


Kosovo -- A traffic sign at the entrance of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica.

Kosovo -- A traffic sign at the entrance of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica.

(PRAGUE, Czech Republic) As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) marks 15 years since its first broadcast to the Balkans, RFE/RL journalists in the region report that ethnic tensions in Bosnia and Kosovo are threatening the fragile peace that has taken hold in the former Yugoslavia.

On the one-year anniversary of Kosovo's independence, Arbana Vidishiqi, chief of RFE/RL's Pristina bureau, writes that "many of the hopes of last February remain elusive. Full sovereignty has yet to be won, especially in the northern part of the country. " An RFE/RL video essay and feature story from the town of Mitrovica confirm the deep divisions between ethnic Serbian and Albanian communities in northern Kosovo.

RFE/RL's Nenad Pejic, the former head of programming at Sarajevo Television at the beginning of the war in the 1990s, says "Bosnia is practically a failed state today. The patriotism that once united everyone in the country has been split into three petty ethnic patriotisms."

Gordana Knezevic, a Sarajevo-based newspaper reporter during the war who now oversees RFE/RL broadcasts to the Balkans, calls the 1995 U.S.-brokered peace agreement at Dayton "a shotgun wedding that failed to deliver the constitutional framework needed for Bosnia's future."

RFE/RL launched its first broadcasts to the Balkans in 1994, in the midst of war, with the goal of bringing objective, uncensored news and information to the former Yugoslavia. With more than 150 journalists working out of six countries, the Balkans service established itself as one of the most trusted sources of news in the region. In 1999, a survey conducted by a Belgrade newspaper found that RFE/RL was the most listened-to international broadcaster in Serbia during the NATO bombing campaign.

Recently, RFE/RL reporter Mirjana Rakela won a prestigious EU journalism prize for her groundbreaking report on children who fought in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, titled Child Warriors: Manipulation Without Borders.

About RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service
RFE/RL's Balkans service, formally known as the South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, broadcasts in five languages to six countries - Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Croatia. It has five bureaus, 188 affiliate stations, and broadcasts seven hours a day on radio, television, satellite radio, and the Internet (www.slobodnaevropa.org, www.evropaelire.org, www.makdenes.org).
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