Monday, January 29, 2007

Reality Dawns

In this succinct piece, Tihomir Loza of Transitions Online, argues that the threats of Kosovo's independence are exaggerated. His predictions on what might happen are not much different from what I wrote down a few days ago at A Fistful of Euros and here.

by Tihomir Loza
29 January 2007

Suggestions that the independence offer to Kosovo will destabilize the region are greatly exaggerated.


An important element in the Serbian rejection of Kosovo’s independence will be the popular lack of respect for Albanians among the Serbs. Ethnic Albanians were close to the bottom of an unspoken yet omnipresent food-chain among the former Yugoslavia’s ethnic groups, a rating list whose top was occupied by often antagonistic but largely mutually respecting – if not always respectful – Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. To reward the Albanians, who are still often disdained and ridiculed as backward by the region’s nationalists, with something as shiny as an independent new state, on top of the one that they already have in Albania, just doesn’t and will not soon make any sense to ordinary Serbs.

Transitions Online: Reality Dawns


Edward Hugh said...

Hi Seb,

Whilst understanding and fully supporting the Kosovar desire to have an inependent state, I don't think we should underestimate the conjuntural difficulties that this will present for the region.

Demographically that part of Eastern Europe which has remained outside the EU is in serious decline.

Serbia itself has been reduced to an exporter of human capital to points further west. It is hard to see this pattern changing over the short to mid term, and it is hard to see what the long term outlook is in any shape or form.

The situation for EU accession is much more complicated, since it is impossible to contemplate any new members being admitted (even Croatia) *before* the question of Turkey is resolved. Regardless of the internal dynamic of EU debate, external considerations will determine this. And it is impossible to be clear about what is going to happen to the question of Turkish membership till we get to see what is going to happen in Iraq, and in particular in Kurdistan.

So this whole picture is getting to be very complicated indeed.

Another factor which needs to be taken into account is the ability of an ageing European core to take on board new members who are likely themselves to be having serious, demographically driven, ageing problems.

The macro-economics of all of this is far from clear. Most people simply assume - without carrying out any empirical investigation - that ageing has few macro performance consequences. But if I look at the three oldest societies we have to hand - Germany, Japan, Italy - I note that they have all already been struggling for some time.

Last year - 2006 - was in many ways a bumper one, and this seems to have lead many to forget the underlying issues, but I suspect the 2007 data will sharply bring us back to reality again, and the signs from Japan are already leading in that direction.

So then we need to conside the immediate conjuncture in Serbia. As you rightly say, in the longer run Serbians will simply have to accept Kosovo independence in some shape or form.

But in the short run the Serbian political system may be simply unable to accept this, and it may prove impossible for Kostunica to forge an alliance with the pro-Europeans (more and more of whom may simply up and leave, especially the younger ones).

Thus we may have a short term political conjuncture which has long term consequences. This I think is the principal worry.

Edward Hugh said...

This one from Don Murray seems pretty much to the point.

bytycci said...

Hi Edward,
You are right to warn about the immediate consquences. It is my fear too that there will be a turn to radicalism in Serbia which will force young people to leave. But decisions shouldn't be made on such fears.

Also, it is my conviction that EU sees the issue of Western Balkans accession as seperate from that of Turkey's. This is for many reasons, and the main one is that while Western Balkan countries are more likely to reform quicker (may be with the exception of Serbia), Turkey will reform slower. Further, EU doesn't want the WBalkans as an enclave, which will only produce instability if left outside.

The article by Murray, I think is the best so far on the situation in Serbia after the elections. Thanks for linking it here.

Good luck!