Friday, February 15, 2008

Southern Europe Fears an Independent Kosovo

And with good reason.

According to AKI:

Kosovo: Focus — Prospect of secession alarms Europe

Majority ethnic Albanians in breakaway Kosovo are gearing up for a declaration of independence from Serbia — strenuously opposed by Serbs but long awaited by most Kosovans.

Not all European countries share the enthusiasm of the United States, Italy and other Western countries for Kosovo’s secession that has buoyed its independence drive.

The US has signalled that it intends to recognise Kosovo immediately after its declares independence. But Belgrade, Moscow, Athens and Madrid will not be celebrating the birth of a Kosovan state.

While Serbs must accept losing permanently the territory that it views as the birthplace of their state, Russia, Spain and Greece all fear that an independent Kosovo will set a dangerous precedent.

“Giving independence to Pristina [the Kosovan capital] will have a dangerous effect on many geographical areas,” Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has stated.

Spain’s government has already announced it does not intend to recognise Kosovo as an independent state immediately. It has threatened to use its veto at the European Union unless it receives “very serious guarantees”.

Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania have also said they will not recognise Kosovo immediately

The EU was expected to launch the deployment of the European Union’s planned 2,000-strong police and justice mission on Saturday unless the 27 EU countries raised a last-minute objection, diplomats said on Friday.

Ten diplomats from Spain’s foreign ministry in the capital, Madrid, have been tasked with scrutinising all the documentation relating to Kosovo’s planned declaration of independence to be presented to governments.

“To gain Spain’s approval, any document by the United Nations and European Union or any other organisation on the independence of Kosovo must state explicitly that it is an exceptional and unique decision owing to the fact that Kosovans were subjected to ethnic cleansing,” a Spanish diplomat told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Spain’s fears over Kosovo are entirely understandable. The country has at least three regions where some members of the population want independence: Aragon, the Basque region, and Catalonia.

Granting independence to Kosovo because 90 percent of its population speaks a different language, would open the door to the secession of these three regions, and possibly the Canary Islands and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco.

Spain is not the only European country that has problems with its minorities. Almost every European country has a separatist movement waiting for the most opportune moment to claim its right to independence and secession.
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In France, the central government has to contend with the Bretons, in Britain, there is the issue of Northern Ireland, Belgium has its conflict beween the Flemish and the Walloons, while the government of the Republic of Cyprus must contend with the Turkish-occupied north in the divided island.

In Eastern Europe, the situation is even more volatile. Romania and Slovakia must deal with significant Hungarian minorities, while Bulgaria has a sizeable Turkish minority.

Macedonia, whose population is 30 percent ethnic Albanian, and Greece, with its Macedonian minority and Poland with its German one, also fear Kosovo’s independence.

The ripples from Kosovo could spread far beyond the region — to Scandinavia, the former Soviet republics, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, to Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, Tibet, China.

“Why should the international community reserve treatment for the Kosovans that could be granted elsewhere, for example in Abkhazia,” Sergej Bagapsh, president of the breakway region of Georgia asked earlier this week.

Hat tip: insubria.


History Snark said...

Stratfor just talked about this issue earlier today. Russia hints that they might recognize breakaway areas in Georgia if Kosovo is recognized. But they also opine that the Russians are bluffing.

Still, the question they've always asked is what would Russia do? Vlad has warned Europe too many times about Kosovo, so he's now kinda committed.

Ah, to live in dull times again...

Frank said...

Europe seems to have gone mad. Even Spain, in its weak attempt to secure promises of exclusivity from the EU is making an ass of itself. Reams of assurances can be signed, stamped, and lacquered up and encased in stone, but without the shadow of a a doubt the next time a portion of a state wants independence from a larger body, this will be cited as precedence. It's so obviously a slippery slope, on top of being a foolish move, that I can't believe it's happening. WTF was Clinton thinking?

History Snark said...

Scott, I believe he was thinking "I need to distract attention from all my mistakes, so let's go to war on behalf of a terrorist group."

Homophobic Horse said...


Diamed said...

What would be wrong with everyone who wants independence getting it? The declaration of independence says the foundation of a state is the consent of the governed. If a large group of people in a geographically united area do not consent, they should be able to break away just like the USA did, or Hungary did, or Greece did, or practically every nation at some point did.

Should the USSR be reunited? Why do people assume history is just going to stand still and no further political divisions will ever occur in the future? States combine and divide all the time. The city states of Greece had even smaller populations than Abkhazia, and yet they managed to form independent and effective governments. Are vast overpopulated countries full of squabbling minorities or an oppressive majority really best? Should we always prefer them to homogeneous, small, harmonious, peaceful countries?

Is there some horrible legacy of Athens, Venice, and Genoa that proves we should never allow small countries to exist again?

Alexis said...

I think Mr. Putin is acting adroitly on Kosovo. He has nothing to lose and much to gain from opposing Kosovo independence.

The key question is whether Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria will allow Russian forces and supplies to traverse their territory. During the First Kosovo War, Russian transports were prevented from reinforcing Russian forces at Pristina airport due to interference from Romania and Bulgaria. Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece are part of NATO, and that means popular opinion there probably won't matter.

Despite what the America's Senate Foreign Relations Committee seems to think, there is little stomach in the United States for yet another war against Serbia on behalf of Albanian irredentists. In that context, Russian troops reinforcing Serb positions in Kosovo would at least enhance Serbia's bargaining power. Yet, that is a logistical impossibility unless Romania and Bulgaria switch sides from NATO and form an Orthodox Bloc with Russia.

Does anybody here think NATO will crumble to dust because of Kosovo? Would Kosovo independence even lead to the dissolution of the European Union? Kosovo may be the solvent to dissolve them in the long run, but I am sadly resigned to the EU and NATO triumphantly promoting Kosovo independence as a humanitarian cause.

Alexis said...


Do you really want the United States of America to dissolve into warring states? There are Vermont secessionists, Dixie secessionists, Chicano secessionists in the southwest, pro-independence sentiment among a few Indian tribes, and one particular tinderbox ready to explode if Deseret nationalism ever asserts itself.

I think Woodrow Wilson's assertion of "self-determination" was a disaster for Europe and it would be a disaster if it were ever applied to the United States of America. During the Articles of Confederation and the early days of our present Constitution, much of the United States national treasury went to paying tribute to Barbary States. In contrast, we now have a strong navy.

May self-determination be damned if that means paying jizya to a pack of barbary thieves! As imperfect as the United States is, I vastly prefer America's present republican imperium over any more of Woodrow Wilson's madness.

Baron Bodissey said...

Diamed --

Self-determination is fine in theory, but remember what it comes down to in the real world:

1. The ability to secure and maintain control within well-defined territorial boundaries. This is why self-determination for the Rom would not be practical -- no well-defined boundaries.

2. The ability to defend the new nation's territory against other polities that would deny it sovereignty. This is why the Confederacy could not endure -- the British and the French held off recognizing the new country until it demonstrated that it could successfully defend itself, which it couldn't do.

Why is Tibet no longer an independent nation? It managed #1 effectively, but not #2.

Kosovo can only manage both of these necessary functions ONLY if it has a powerful patron willing to intervene militarily on its behalf. This means, in effect, the USA, because the EU, China, and (obviously) Russia will not go to bat for Kosovo.

If the USA flexes its military muscles at Serbia, and the USA, Russia, China, and the major EU countries recognize Kosovo, that will effectively mean that Serbia can do nothing to stop Kosovar independence.

Russia's behavior in all this is, of course, the big question mark.

Diamed said...

The loss of any landmass in Europe to muslims is unfortunate, of course, and I can see people opposing it simply on the basis that muslims should be opposed everywhere at all times. The article however is opposing it for a fallacious reason, that separatism is inherently bad and every minority gaining its freedom would be some sort of nightmare worst case scenario.

In fact it is just the opposite, that would be the best case scenario for the whole world. Practically no nation, once it has gained its independence, has ever sought to rejoin the country it broke away from. For hundreds of years empires have been collapsing and the nations that replace them are happier, freer, richer, and more peaceful.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, all of them have fallen and split into many nations. The benefits of a small nation are manifold, the drawbacks few. Is anyone going to suggest Singapore should have stayed part of Malaysia? Or Lithuania part of Russia, or Greece part of the Ottoman Empire, or the USA part of Great Britain? Why do we wish to withhold from others what we feel is just and good for ourselves?

Seeing as how small nations like Luxembourg and Singapore are extremely rich, no one can argue that a large nation is necessary to support an economy. That leaves only the ability to defend yourself, which can easily be resolved by huddling under the wing of a greater power, or forming a defensive alliance, or like Israel getting nuclear weapons. Consider Taiwan. It's been able to maintain its independence despite over one billion Chinese hoping to conquer the small island for 50 years now by allying with the USA, its economy is much higher than China's, and it enjoys far more freedom than China. If Taiwan can stay free of China, Kosovo can certainly stay free of Serbia.

I'm not sure what principle alexis or the article is advocating. That people should be forced to stay part of a nation that abuses, oppresses, and even genocides them (like Serbia did to Kosovo)? That for the sake of a more powerful army, millions of people should be forced to pay taxes and be drafted to fight for a nation they share nothing in common with, and want nothing to do with (Like the Flemish to the Walloons)? Certainly, if you can convince people to stay a part of your country by pointing out all the good things unity brings, that's fine. But when you switch that over to forcing people at gunpoint to stay in your country against their own will, because it benefits you, what excuse do you have?

Félicie said...

diamed: "That people should be forced to stay part of a nation that abuses, oppresses, and even genocides them (like Serbia did to Kosovo)?"

The genocide was in the opposite direction. Once upon a time this area was Serbian. I heard Serbs complaining about the violence and aggression of the Albanians back in the 80ies, when Yugoslavia was not on anyone's radar yet.

Stephen Gash said...

It would be best if other countries kept their noses out of Serbia's business, especially the UK, the USA and France.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

It is quite wrong to say that seperatism and the slef determination of nations is inherantly bad.

However, the Kosovo Albanians are not demanding their own ancestral homeland here, they are demanding someone else's. There is already a perfectly good Albania (well, it sucks, but that is another story) run and populated by ethnic Albanians in their own langauge, institutions and culture. Kosovo was Serb majority until just over a century ago, and is the birthplace of the Serb nation.

An independent Kosovo is likely to be unsustainable and therefore may well join with Albania (or split it in turn).

Its a big can of worms to open - local foreign minorities opting to redraw borders. Where to stop? German minority in Denmark next to the border? Danish minority in Germany next to the same border (and yes they fought over that in the late 1800s)? Russian minorities in eastern Latvia (Russia keeps using this as a threat), Mexicans in "Aztlan" (thats Gringo occupied California and Arizona, think la Raza), Chinese in eastern Siberia (the Chinese have opted not to bring this up ... yet)? Albanians in Serbia (Presevo), Macedonia, Greece (the first two HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED post 2000)?

Depending on circumstance I might have some sympathy for a Catalan, Ossetian, Mayan, Tibetan or Apache nation wanting their own sovereign homeland if that were to be viable - but snatch and grab on neighboring countries as happened to Serbia is the slippery slope to hell.

Anonymous said...

Each report on Kosovo states that 90% of Kosovo is ethnic Albanian. And that is the trouble. If they were 90% ethnic Kosovan, there would be a much better case for independence.
I can see a future Britain - "90% of Yorkshire is ethnic Pakistani" - will that be sufficient grounds for independence? I think not.

The reality is that Kosovo was taken away from Serbia by the actions of the US to appease the Saudis and Muslims. This action against Serbia by the US and the UK was illegal in international law and the UN charter. What the US and the EU are now doing in turns, is first asking, then threatening, and finally trying to bribe Serbia to accept the illegality of that war, and thus make the crime legal. These actions in themselves are an indication that the US and the EU recognise the weakness of their case - if they had felt otherwise, they would have no need to threaten, and then try to bribe Serbia.

As long as Serbia and Russia, and thus the UN, do not recognise Kosovan independence, Kosovo will simply be an illegal rebellious entity. Serbia will be justified in international law to take back Kosovo whenever the circumstances are opportune. Sooner or later they will come.

Kosovo threatens to be real quagmire. Once the UN withdraws its diplomatic cover, the only way ethnic Albanians can continue to hold Kosovo is by relying on US forces - which naturally, and quite legitamately, Serbia will claim as being an invading and occupying force- Russia will support them. The US will be stuck in Kosovo, with no hope for an honorouble withdrawal with mission accomplished.

Both Russia and China are quite happy to see the US caught in this pit - caught in dubious legality, and for no real political, strategic or economic gain, and no honourable way out. I have a feeling that it is for this reason that they are not opposing Kosovo's independence as vehemently as they might.

This is a real tragedy for the US and Europe in the near future, when we are likely to need America's full attention and presence, and cooperating with Russia to deal with a nuclear Iran.

Imperialistu' said...

Alexis - " Yet, that is a logistical impossibility unless Romania and Bulgaria switch sides from NATO and form an Orthodox Bloc with Russia."
It'll never happen. We, Romanians, have a long history of Russian oppression. There is no great orthodox brotherhood between us and Mother Russia. There can't be any. We remember what the Russians had done to us. Basarabia and Bucovina stand testimony to Russia's policy. Denationalisation and russification - key words for understanding Russia's plans with Romanian. And Russians are done. Just look what they're doing in our Moldova.

We don't support Serbia because we are Orthodox or Russian-friendly. We support Serbia because it is the decent thing to do, even though Serbia does not recognize the Romanian minority.

I just hope we'll hold to our position.

Imperialistu' said...

Darn. Read it as "key words for understanding Russia's plans with Romanians. And the Russian's aren't done yet."

History Snark said...

A couple points: First off, Diamed mentions Taiwan as a country which has maintained it's independence with a large, hostile neighbor. But remember to look at a map. Taiwan is an island (as are others of the small countries you mention). Easier to protect your territory if your enemies have to cross deep water to get there.

As for Kosovo, remember too what several commenters have mentioned: The "Kosovars" are Albanian. They already have a country. The problem is that these folks are criminals and psychos. Once they get Kosovo, then they want to unite with Albania. And then they plan to follow the script exactly- next, the Albanian minorities in other neighboring countries will demand independence, and if they get it, join into A Greater Albania.

In the end, if this played out the way the "Kosovars" hope, the Balkans would be dominated by Albania.

Not a good thing, is it?