The transition from the 20th to the 21st century marked a pivotal moment in the Western Balkans. By the end of 2000, the three leaders—Franjo Tuđman of Croatia, Alija Izetbegović of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Slobodan Milošević of Serbia—who had presided over the most destructive crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War were no longer on the political scene. Moreover, the electoral success of democratic coalitions in Croatia and Serbia, the progress toward democratic standards recognized in Albanian local elections, and electoral reforms introduced in BiH all aroused a sense of optimism for democratization in the region. Thirteen years later, where do these countries stand on the path toward democracy? Has their performance fulfilled expectations?
On July 25, 2011, Kosovo police deployed north from Pristina and over the Ibar River to commandeer two checkpoints at the Serbian border in connection with a customs dispute with Belgrade. But the dispute was just a pretext. Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo was after much more: authority over the northern, Serb-majority portion of his country, where Pristina has had little control since the end of the 1998–99 conflict.