Friday, January 26, 2007

Divided we stand, united we fall!


Mitrovica, Kosovo, January 25, 2007. REUTERS/Hazir Reka

It is now obvious that Kosovo will get some form of independence. Be it "Conditional independence," "supervised independence," "independence lite" or any other name you want to call it - Kosovo will split its ties with Serbia. It would be pointless to call for independence at this time, however I will try to pen some ideas regarding why I think Kosovo's independence will be beneficial for both Kosovo and Serbia.

First and foremost, the benefits of a defined status will be seen immediately among the Kosovars. When I was in Kosovo last summer, the air was stiffling; people were desperate. Besides the lack jobs and money, the psychological barrier of the status quo was so big that it stiffled any type of creativity. Hopefully, as an independent country Kosovo will attract investment and the living standard will improve.

Second, after Kosovo's sovereignty is recognized internationally, Serbia will be able to remove a huge burden off its back. Nonetheless, that will happen only if Serbia chooses to do so. True, ultranationalists won most of the votes in the last election; however that doesn't mean Serbia is not going to recognize the fact that it doesn't have to deal with the issue of Kosovo anymore. Polls show that most Serbs are ready to accept and do expect that Kosovo will become indepedent.

Third, the closure, and ideally mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia, would enable genuine reconciliation to take place between Serbs and Albanians. This is very important for the future of the Balkans.

Last but not least, Kosovo's independence would mean the end of an unstable period in the Balkans. Not only do Kosovars suffer from the status quo, but the whole region does. Hopefully, when I check the news on the Balkans in the future headlines will include words like 'GDP,' 'growth' and 'free trade,' instead of 'war crimes,' 'Mladic,' and 'ethnic tensions.'

Furthermore, if Kosovo is forced back into Serbian rule, only more human suffering will ensue.


However, there is a risk that Serbia will refuse to wake up to the reality. And that may be encouraged by Mr. Ahtisaari's proposal. If the wording of the resolution on Kosovo is too vague, and it doesn't guarantee that Kosovo will be a compact functional state, Serbia may be led to believe that it can one day reconquer Kosovo. Ahtisaari may risk earning the nickname Ah-Tito-saari. Former Yugoslav dictator Tito did give Kosovo that status of an equal federal unit, however Kosovo didn't ge the name 'Republic.' This led to the occupation of Kosovo by Serbia in 1989.

What will happen?

In any case, we are going to have to update our maps very soon. Either through a UN resolution, or unilateral recognition Kosovo is going to be recognized as an independent state. Almost certainly, Serbia will not recognize the new state immediately. Nevertheless, Serbia will recognize the independent Kosovo, either indirectly (through multilateral agreements) or directly, in the medium term. It is also quite likely that Serbia will have to change its constitution if it wants to join the EU.

The immediate aftermath of independence is hard to guess. Some Kosovar Albanians may be unhappy with the settlement and decide to protest in the street. Some Kosovar Serbs might try to cut ties completely with the Kosovo government and join Serbia. Which is highly unlikely to happen, for many reasons, the least of which is not the NATO military presence in all Kosovo areas. Some Serbians might go into the streets to protest the settlement, too. Most Kosovars - including me - will be consuming large amounts of alcohol as part of the celebration of the hard earned freedom.

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