Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kosovo Slips Further Away From Serbia

It's been a good day for Kosovo. That's the little part of south-east Europe that used to be part of Yugoslavia and then Serbia, and was latterly run by the UN after the 1999 war waged by NATO to end Slobodan Milosevic's attempts at ethnic cleansing. Kosovo finally declared independence from Serbia in February, and since then nearly 50 other countries have recognised that independence. Today, two of the other bits of the old Yugoslavia, Montenegro and Macedonia, also did.

Serbia went through the motions of being angry about it, and expelling Montenegro's ambassador to Belgrade. The Serbian government has to do that, because there's still plenty of its citizens who believe Kosovo should always remain part of Serbia. That feeling's been central to the idea of Serb nationalism for more than six centuries, even though these days most of the people who live there are ethnic Albanians (the same Albanians Milosevic wanted to kick out back in 1999).

But even though Serbia also this week won a vote at the UN allowing it to challenge Kosovo's independence at the International Court of Justice, it's got no realistic chance of hanging on to its former province. It's already allowed back the ambassadors of western European countries which recognised Kosovo earlier in the year. The leaders in Belgrade know that if they want to continue to move their country closer to the rest of the world, and crucially the EU, they can't play games over Kosovo. When Serbia expresses disgust at the latest developments, it's really just keeping up appearances.

1 comment:

Jonathan Davis said...

Hi Richard,

I think your analysis misses what is actually most likely outcome: Partition.

If the ICJ rules in Serbia's favour, Serbia will use that as a bargaining chip. Failing that it has the Kosovo Precedent itself to fall back on.

It has created and now maintains parallel institutions in northern Kosovo and off the record UN, EU and diplomatic sources here will tell you that partition is more than possible and in most cases likely.

Another side effect of Montenegro and Macedonia's recognition (given under massive pressure from the EU) is the possible break up of those states in the future.

Now that they have formally endorsed the legitimacy of Kosovo, the only think that stand between their own large Albanian minorities seceding is the goodwill of those minority leaders.

The EU, US and Kosovo government have gone from gleeful gloating and celebration about Kosovo's nationhood to dismayed alarm at its lack of recognition, Serbia's legal attack and the increasing likelihood that a negotiated partition may have to be the end result. I am glad about that.

The cynicism, hypocrisy of the US and EU, and their unashamed bullying of Serbia and its regional allies is a disgrace.

As the Guardian says today:

"The EU's failure to support Serbia's application for an advisory ruling from the ICJ raises important questions about its commitment to strengthening international law and multilateral institutions. The decisions of EU member states themselves cannot and should not be exempt from legal scrutiny; nor should attempts be made to threaten Serbia's European prospects in a cynical bid to deter its recourse to legal means. Instead, respect for international law should be the hallmark of the EU and its burgeoning common foreign and security policy. For it to recapture some of its lost influence at the UN, the EU must no longer persist in applying double standards to matters of international law and justice."