Friday, June 03, 2005

Independence dreams - Kosovo's final status - The Economist

The start of talks on Kosovo's future

A Serbian province heads towards full independence

THE United Nations Security Council has given the go-ahead for talks that could culminate in independence for Kosovo. Six years after the end of the Kosovo war, it signalled on May 27th a new determination by the western powers to open talks on the final status of the disputed province. The fear is that, if Kosovo is not seen to be moving towards independence soon, the UN mission and NATO troops in Kosovo might be faced with an ethnic-Albanian equivalent of Palestine's intifada.

Under international law Kosovo is still part of Serbia, even though it has, since June 1999, been a UN protectorate. It has a population of some 2m, of whom more than 90% are ethnic Albanians. They want independence. Serbia's leaders say that they are willing to offer the Albanians virtually everything they wish—except that.

The UN has now set a diplomatic process in motion. A UN envoy will be sent to assess the situation in the province. A “status envoy” may then be appointed in the autumn to push forward negotiations between Kosovo's Albanians and Serbia.

Serbian officials are preparing various negotiating strategies. Nothing is finalised yet and some, at least, is bluff. After all, in the unlikely situation that Kosovo's Albanians accepted Serbia's offer of “more than autonomy and less than independence”, this could put ethnic-Albanian ministers into Serbia's government, as well as an ethnic-Albanian block into parliament in Belgrade. Such a block could hold the balance of power between parties representing 8m Serbs. Serbia's leaders do not want this. What they would prefer is for the western powers to persuade the Albanians to abandon their demands for full independence. No Serbian leader wants to go down in history as the man who treacherously signed away a province many Serbs see as their historical birthright.

According to one Serbian source, this could mean that ethnic-Albanian areas of Kosovo would be self-governing and independent in all but name. Yet many western diplomats think that it is unrealistic for Serbia to retain any kind of link to Kosovo. They are mulling the idea of “conditional independence”. This would break the link with Serbia and replace the present UN mission with a new body that would have considerable reserve powers to keep the province under tight international control for many years to come.

To a considerable extent Serbia's leaders are fighting a rearguard action over Kosovo. They know that they may not be able to prevent Kosovo's independence. They even concede that, if it should be forced on them, they could not possibly launch a new war against it. Yet, as one Serbian source close to the president says, an independent Kosovo could quickly turn into a crime-ridden, mafia-run state: a result that would be nothing short of a “disaster for the region”.

To the grim satisfaction of Serbian officials, and just as independence appears within its grasp, Kosovo's own politics are in disarray. While the UN is trying to encourage all sides to find a consensus before the final-status talks, bitter political feuds are breaking into the open. A spate of inter-Albanian shootings and bombings has underlined just how fragile political life is in the province.

Gerald Knaus, head of the European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based think-tank, gives warning that there could be worse to come. He says that Kosovo's stagnant economy may shrink by as much as half a percentage point this year, just as the EU is also drastically cutting back aid. This he terms “strategic blindness”, which could result in upheavals and violence just at the moment that the EU is nudging the Serbs and Kosovo's Albanians towards talking peace.


Anonymous said...

The US and Europe are undertaking an odd experiment in Kosova ever since 1999. It is like isolating a plant in a vase and deprive it of watering to see if it can survive independently. If it survives, than it is ripe for independence, if it doesn't than it does not deserve it(the indpendence).

Please open the doors of international funds and loans to Kosova. There is no way the economy can grow with the current status and without foreign investments. These are being denied to Kosova because of the unresolved status. Most of the aid money goes into corruption (of internationals and locals) which is for me an expected outcome. In lack of economical growth, you have growth in frustrations, all kinds of.

Anonymous said...

Comment #1 is 100% accurate. Kosovo is in a loop of a great experiment, which so far has been considered very much effective. However, there are limitations and as time is going by, everybody including high officials of many decision making offices are realizing that Kosovo should be independent.

Kosovo is in the very strategic portion of the Europe. If this part is neglected again, we will have a same problem that happened during the 80 and 90, which may escalate in the broaden scope in the future.

For 10,000,000.00 Km2 and just a little bit over 2M people, Kosovo will grow fast and under its independency will stabilize the whole region and reflect a model of new established democracy followed by new standards of post cold war era.

Help Kosovo, Kosovo has right people who love to live in prosperity with other nation in their land.

Anonymous said...

Lets be realistic. Kosovo will become exactlly what Bosnia is now. A pathetic, mafia ridden state. Its inevitable.

Anonymous said...

...Hit the ignore button for the comment above written by our hate blinded Serbian blogger.

Anonymous said...

To the Serb blogger, you mean what Serbia is today? or did you mean Republika Srpska, the part of Bosnia you beauties stole and raped for?

Anonymous said...

The situation on Kosovo is the evidence of the blindness of the Serbs to foresee the events!And look what we have now - somebody multiplied on our own territory and had a dream about taking it for themselves and we can do noth about it!And this is the period when they wish to fullful their dream! People wake up - Kosovo is, was and will always be Serbia!One day your American friends will stop supproting you and then we will see whether Kosovo will be Albanianor independent!!