Kosovar sovereignty

2008-02-25 00:00

There is a neat symmetry to Kosovo’s independence. It was in 1989 that Slobodan Milosevic, as president of Serbia, marked his opportunistic conversion from Stalinist functionary to radical nationalist with an inflammatory speech. Although Kosovo’s people are 90% Albanian, Milosevic ended its limited autonomy in pursuit of his fantasy of a greater Serbia. The consequence was the prolonged, bloodstained break-up of federal Yugoslavia.

Since the Nato invasion of 1999 in response to Serb repression, Kosovo has effectively become a European Union mandate. The EU has decided that the best option for its future and regional stability is limited sovereignty. The image of a small, persecuted ethnic group released from the grip of a bullying neighbour contains an air of historical justice in tune with the democratic spirit of this age.

But there are significant problems. Above all, there is doubt about the international legality of Kosovo’s independence. It appears to be in conflict with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which is more in tune with a Serb offer of restored autonomy. Vetoes will ensure that Kosovo will not be awarded the traditional badge of nationhood, membership of the UN, amid increasing tension between Russia and that revived political concept, the West.

Balkan history appears to have reached a logical conclusion, but the mystical roots of Serb nationalism continue to lie in a 14th- century battle in Kosovo against the Turks. Its brooding historical presence remains. Russia also has reason to oppose Kosovo’s independence, which provides justification for a similar future for another Muslim region, Chechnya. Moscow hints at support for separatists in its neighbour, Georgia, and back in the Balkans there is secessionist potential from the Serbs of Bosnia; or even a move towards a greaterAlbania.

­In a globalised world, a desire for ethnic identity is understandable. But does it justify independence for two million people? There is an African connection to this Balkan political jigsaw. Since decolonisation, national boundaries, however illogical, have been fiercely preserved in the interests of peace and stability. But what message might Kosovo’s independence send amid the current, potentially catastrophic, political crisis in Kenya?

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