Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is Kosovo a viable state?

Is Kosovo a viable independent state, asks the BBC today.

In the rush to grant independence to Kosovo (something that will likely come this weekend), I haven't seen the question asked if Kosovo as its own nation even makes sense. A country is more than just an idea in someone's heart, it’s a physical place with roads, and utilities, and police, and a host of other things that need to somehow be paid for.

By European standards Kosovo is dirt poor. Currently the unemployment rate in Kosovo is over 40%, and in the countryside and Serbian-populated areas its over 70%. Kosovo's main source of income is foreign aid from the European Union, that and a thriving black market economy. There are some mineral deposits in Kosovo, but it will take a lot of foreign investment to get them out of the ground. And until stability can be established, foreign investment won't be coming anytime soon.

The solution offered by the European Union isn't encouraging - making it easy for Kosovo's residents to get visas to work in Western Europe. In other words, rather than staying at home to build up their own country, young Kosovars will be imported to work at jobs in the countries pushing for their independence (which kind of makes you wonder why some European countries are pushing so hard for Kosovo's independence in the first place).

It again begs the question is independence really the best thing for Kosovo, rather than becoming an autonomous region within Serbia - who in turn is then on a fast-track to EU membership. I guess we will find out this weekend.
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