Balkans: Kosovo Conundrum Climax

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November 26, 2007: Germany continues to try to fashion a Kosovo independence proposal that Russia will accept and that Serbia will swallow. A recent German proposal suggested Kosovo become a "neutral" country. Serbia didn't like the idea, nor did Kosovo, because no one knew what "neutral status" meant. Serbia even called the "neutral status" term a "trick" to disguise Kosovar independence.

November 22, 2007: The Serbs apparently constitute seven percent of Kosovo's current population. This is a decrease from the early 1990s, when it was about 12 percent. Ethnic Albanians disputed the 12 percent figure, contending Serbs were around ten percent of the population. Even if the lower figure is correct, that means the Serb population in Kosovo (as a percentage of total population) has declined by 30 percent since the 1990s.

November 21, 2007: Russia accused the US of failing to appreciate the real situation in Kosovo. The Russian statement said that Kosovo's independence would set precedents that other "separatist movements" around the world would use to destabilize countries. The Russians are deeply concerned about their own separatist movements (like Chechnya). The Russians are increasingly using the political formulation "Serbian –Albanian" conflict to characterize the Kosovo situation. That characterization seeks to put the Serb-Kosovo situation in the larger Balkan context of "Slavs versus Albanians." Serbs (who are Slavs) contend that Kosovar independence is part of an ethnic Albanian movement to create a "Greater Albania" in the Balkans.

November 20, 2007: After another day of negotiation Serbia and Kosovo said that they are no closer to an agreement on independence. Serbia has floated the idea that it would support "one state, two systems," which is the Chinese formula for allowing Hong Kong's special status as a "democratic capitalist" region within China. Kosovo rejects that model.

The likely winner of Kosovo's recent presidential elections, Hashim Thaci, said that Kosovo is "ready for independence." He indicated that Kosovo will declare independence sometime after December 10, the date the UN is supposed to receive a report on "Kosovo's final status talks." Thaci's statement came despite diplomatic statements by the European Union that the EU is against a "unilateral declaration of independence" by Kosovo.

November 17, 2007: Kosovo's government "pledged" that it would seek independence from Serbia. The Kosovo government expects the "major powers" will immediately recognize its independence. Russia, however, continues to say that it is against Kosovar independence from Serbia – and in eastern Europe Russian remains a major power.

November 15, 2007: The European Union indicated that it is concerned about the political situation in Bosnia. This means that it is highly likely that the EUFOR peacekeeping force will remain in Bosnia for the foreseeable future. EUFOR has approximately 2500 troops in Bosnia. EU countries currently supply 2,042 troops. Non-EU countries deploy another 413. The non-EU participants include Albania, Chile, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and Macedonia. Turkey has 252 troops in EUFOR. Germany, Italy, and Spain provide the largest contingents of EU troops (347, 333, and 276 troops respectively).

November 14, 2007: The US State Department issued a statement that said the US remains committed to the "supervised independence" of Kosovo. "Supervised" is a useful weasel word. It probably means that NATO troops will remain in Kosovo to insure the peace. NATO still has some 17,000 troops in Kosovo. Approximately 1500 US troops serve with the NATO force.

November 10, 2007: Serbia's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) issued an official declaration that it wants Serbia "to remain a (military) neutral." That may have made immediate sense in the Cold War, but what does it mean now? It means the DSS does not want Serbia to join NATO. Many DSS members say they are still angry at "NATO's war on Serbia" (the 1999 Kosovo War). Many Serbs are also pro-Russia and Russia is not a member of NATO. In fact, Vladimir Putin often takes "anti-NATO" political stances. Serbia, however, is a member of the Partnership for Peace (PFP), which is really a "junior NATO" group.

 

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