Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Trouble Brewing in Kosovo

Tensions over Kosovo’s impending declaration of independence are increasing. The declaration is expected to take place in early 2008, with the United States and key members of the European Union already promising to recognize the new state once it splits from Serbia.

Serbia is now saying that if EU members recognize Kosovo as an independent state, Serbia will abandon its bid to join the European Union. Serbia has actively been pursuing membership in the European Union for he past several years, seeing it as a way to put behind them the civil wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s.

Whether Serbia will make good on the threats remains to be seen, but exclusion from the EU, which now includes almost all of western and central Europe, would likely harm Serbia’s long-term prospects for economic growth and development. At the same time, it is understandable how a nation would not seek membership in a group that is carving away a piece of your country.

The possibility for armed conflict over Kosovo’s independence also seems to be increasing. At the same time Serbia was threatening to abandon their EU membership bid, they also told Serbs living in Kosovo to ignore any declarations of independence made by the Kosovo government.

Approximately 120,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, among 2 million Kosovars who are of Albanian descent. In the late 1990s Serbian militias attempted to drive the Kosovars out of Kosovo. Now those Serbs who remain behind fear a similar campaign will be launched against them, and that Kosovo’s government will do nothing to halt it. Serbia has even raised the possibility of using its military to protect Serbs in Kosovo.

Much of the Serbian population is concentrated in the north of Kosovo, along the Serbian border. But the EU and NATO have ruled out the possibility of partition – allowing these regions to leave Kosovo and join Serbia. It is an odd position considering that the are supporting the opposite action in terms of Kosovo – allowing the Kosovar population to partition themselves away from Serbia. As I discussed in an earlier post, it is the most troubling aspect of the Serbia-Kosovo situation. The European Union and NATO are supporting Kosovo’s bid for independence without making a case for it based in international law. The rationale is that a civil war was fought and since then Kosovo has, in practice, been independent, so why not recognize them as a state? Its an approach that causes more problems then it solves since the Kosovo/Serbia situation is not unique in the world, yet the EU, or NATO, or the UN are not supporting independence in these other cases.

Kosovo’s formal declaration of independence could come within the next few weeks.
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