For Kosovo Albanians, independence is the only option. For the Serb minority, partition of the UN-administered province would be the best solution.
Key to Kosovo’s future, the international community is fearful that a unilateral declaration of independence could make an already tense situation worse.
Political analyst Shkelzen Malici said: “I am expecting this process to come to an end before December 10. By December 10 we need to have Kosovo’s new government and new parliament so we can finally end the process of negotiations. The period between now and the end of December will be the most decisive in its history.”
December 10 is when mediation in search of a compromise will end. So far, it has been unsuccessful, with the Serbs fiercely opposed to any form of independence.
Internationally, there are three primary positions. The United States is pro-independence and as soon as possible.
The European Union is not quite so black and white. While some countries take the US stance, others say they would need UN approval before recognising an independent Kosovo. Some, like Spain, which are battling separatist movements at home, are less enthusiastic.
Russia has given Serbia its unwavering support.
Moscow has called for further negotiations but December 10 marks the end of talks. From December 20 the case goes back to the UN Security Council with a plan recommending independence under international control.
But Russia has already stopped that happening once – in July – and has not changed its opinion, saying no final steps should be taken without the agreement of both Kosovo and Serbia.
Some political analysts believe that Moscow is actively hoping for divisions within the EU on Kosovo, and other international issues.
If independence is declared, the region may well see tensions worsen. Some analysts have warned of a domino effect of separatist moves, with the first victim being Kosovo itself as the Serb-dominated north breaks off to join Serbia proper.