Balkans: Kosovo Declares Independence

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February 18, 2008: The Serb government is preparing to back a "rejection movement" by Kosovar Serbs. The Kosovar Serbs claim they will not accept Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. Serbia is expected to continue to insist on partition of Kosovo into an Albanian-dominated "Kosovo South" and a Kosovar Serb "statelet" that may ultimately join Serbia. The UN estimates that 120,000 Kosovar Serbs remain in Kosovo. Meanwhile, the government of "independent Kosovo" expects several European Union nations to approve Kosovo's declaration of independence within the next week. Several EU states, however, oppose independence. These states include Romania, Spain, Greece, Slovakia, and Cyprus. Romania is concerned about its own secessionist Hungarians; Spain is concerned about its secessionist Basques. An independent Kosovo could set a precedent for a separate "Turkish Cyprus" as well. The government of Russia said that it will support Kosovar Serbs if they contests Kosovo's declaration of independence. Russia argues that the UN has no basis for allowing Kosovo to separate from Serbia. Russia has called on the UN to condemn the Kosovo declaration of independence as illegal.

February 17, 2008: Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. Kosovo's parliament unanimously voted to declare independence from Serbia. Pro-independence demonstrators in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, celebrated the declaration. The Kosovo government pledged to "protect the rights of Kosovar Serbs" (in Kosovo's Serbian enclaves). Approximately 2,000 Kosovar Serbs reportedly demonstrated outside the US embassy, protesting the declaration of independence. The Serbian government denounced the declaration of independence and accused the west of helping create "a false state" (ie, Kosovo).

What will happen in Kosovo? The next three to six months will be a period of tense and risky diplomacy. At the moment NATO intends to keep a peacekeeping force in the country. The EU has begun organizing a "rule of law" task force to help Kosovo create a robust and democratic legal system (as part of the EULEX mission to Kosovo). Kosovo's declaration is supposedly a "limited" declaration. Kosovo will permit international peacekeepers (an "international presence") and will protect ethnic minorities (Kosovar Serbs and Roma being the primary ethnic minorities). Kosovo has also indicated that it will not try to unify with Albania (ie, there is no "Greater Albania" on the horizon). So what are the risks? Russian opposition in the chief risk, and there are several reasons for opposition from the Kremlin. The Kremlin believes Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence sets a bad precedent for dealing with separatism in Europe. Kosovo's independence has also been sold as "supervised independence" or "limited independence." Oxymorons? Sure. What they mean is unclear, and is supposed to be unclear, because clarity risks angering Kosovar Albanians who want independence. Serbs are already alienated and angry and terms like "supervised" are supposed to reassure them. "Supervised independence", however, implies an international role and that usually means the United Nations. Russia has a veto in the UN. Does that mean Russia can veto supervision? Like we said, the next three to six months should provide an answer to that question.

February 12, 2008: Members of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) said they would demand a "state of emergency" if Kosovo declares independence

February 7, 2008: The prime minister of Kosovo claimed that 100 countries around the world were prepared to recognize Kosovo's independence. Rumors circulated in Europe claiming that Kosovo would declare independence on February 17.

February 4, 2008: The European Union agreed to fund a task force with 1800 personnel to support Kosovo's transition to independence. The task force would focus on strengthening the "rule of law" in Kosovo (building judicial and police institutions).

February 3, 2008: Serbia reelected Boris Tadic as its president. Tadic narrowly defeated "ultra-nationalist" Tomislav Nikolic, by receiving 50.5 percent of the vote. Tadic opposes renewed warfare over Kosovo and supports Serbia's economic and political integration with Western and Central Europe. Nikolic, however, looks east -- to Russia, and he doesn't shy from violent threats. Nikolic has asked for Russian troops to be deployed to Serbia to help "balance" NATO's power. He is adamantly opposed to Kosovo's independence.

February 2, 2008: Bosnia reported that "several thousand" former "foreign fighters" (ie, foreigners who fought for Bosnian Muslim forces during the Bosnian War) were fighting against Bosnian government plans to deport them. So far 613 foreign born Muslims have lost their Bosnian citizenship. Bosnia has been expelling some of these men as "threats to national security." This means the men are Islamist radicals who might become terrorists.

February 1, 2008: Macedonia and Albania indicate that they will try to open their borders, or at least make them "visa-free" for Macedonian and Albanian citizens. The decision is regarded as an indication that both countries want to demonstrate they are capable of implementing and managing EU-type transit regulations

January 31, 2008: Russia granted political asylum to Mirjana Markovic, the wife of Serbia's now dead dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. Russia also granted asylum to Marko Milosevic, the dictator's son. The asylum was granted in March 2006 but only confirmed this year. Marko Milosevic faces international criminal warrants for his alleged involvement in a plan to murder former Serb president Ivan Stambolic.

 

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