Less Balking in the Balkans

As an international alliance and the United Nations prepare for nation-building in Afghanistan, it's heartening to see some progress on a parallel project in another part of the world.

The recent peaceful legislative election in Kosovo showed that people harried by war and ethnic strife can take a step toward a more promising future. The chief vote-getter was a moderate Albanian party. It will have to form a coalition with other parties to govern the province. But that process in itself should encourage greater compromise and cooperation.

Cooperation appears to be on the rise in neighboring Macedonia as well. The national legislature there just passed a package of reforms designed to enhance the rights of the Albanian minority. That should clear the way for further progress toward political stability in Macedonia - and hence in the broader region.

The rights of minorities are key in Kosovo, too. Positively, the province's minority Serbs turned out in unexpectedly high numbers to vote. They will hold more than 20 of the new assembly's 120 seats.

How well the Serb majority is brought into the legislative work - including the establishment of better public services and efforts at development - will be a major gauge of Kosovo's progress. The UN administrators, who will remain at their posts for now, will be watching for this.

What they don't want to see is constant friction over the question of Kosovo's ultimate status - whether as an independent country, or retaining some kind of connection with Serbia.

That question has purposefully been put beyond the purview of the new assembly. But if Kosovo's legislators can pay attention to their more mundane mandate and take steps to improve life for all Kosovars, they'll be closer to resolving the future status of their land - and they'll have a more peaceable basis for doing so.

These steps toward inter-ethnic cooperation are still very tentative, but they're noteworthy. If such steps can be taken in the Balkans, there's hope elsewhere, too.

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