Kosovo has declared independence from Serbia:
A decade after a bloody separatist war with Serbian forces that claimed 10,000 lives, lawmakers pronounced the territory the Republic of Kosovo and pledged to make it a “democratic, multiethnic state.” Its leaders looked for swift recognition from the U.S. and key European powers — but also braced for a bitter showdown.
Serbia called the declaration illegal and its ally Russia denounced it, saying it threatened to touch off a new conflict in the Balkans. Russia and Serbia called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, which met later Sunday.
In the capital, Pristina, the mood was jubilant. Thousands of ethnic Albanians braved subfreezing temperatures to ride on the roofs of their cars, singing patriotic songs and chanting: “KLA! KLA!” the acronym for the now-disbanded rebel Kosovo Liberation Army. They waved American flags alongside the red Albanian banner imprinted with a black, double-headed eagle.
Unsurprisingly, Russia has attacked the move, backing Serbia’s complaint that Kosovo is a ‘false state’ and urging the UN clarify its position. Some analysts predict Russia will retaliate by declaring its support for breakaway enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. Russia must be worried for other reasons too, the most obvious being the long struggle for independence by the Chechen people. No surprise then that Chechen separatists have welcomed Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
Another step, then, to the return of the Cold War? Perhaps, but I will let other better placed people make that claim.
Europe, meanwhile, remains divided. Britain, France and Germany (the most powerful countries in the EU), are expected to give their full support for the deceleration of independence. Spain, Greece and Romania lead the move against giving any support. I am sure Spain must be most alarmed, given the long fight for independence by some of its provinces, most prominently the Basque region.
China must also be taking a look closely (given Tibet, Taiwan and its Muslim dominated western regions); it has already rejected Kosovo’s push for unilateral independence. I suspect India and Indonesia, struggling with their own separatist movements, must also be worried, together with numerous other states around the world. Some are talking of a so-called ‘domino affect’.
Then there is the inevitable ‘Muslim’ question. Kosovo has declared itself a ‘multiethnic’ state, and is wanting to model itself on secular and democratic lines, but I don’t think anyone can dismiss the problems it will face in terms of communal harmony. The usual suspects have expressed their ‘concerns’ over a Muslim state inside Europe and no doubt their heads may explode at the thought of the United States supporting the creation of a (nominally) Muslim nation carved out of a (nominally) Christian one. Serbs, meanwhile, will no doubt continue to portray themselves as defenders of Europe against a platform for Muslim extremism. Further (and this is to be expected in an election year in the US), concern has been expressed as to whether Kosovo’s independence is bad for Israel. Opinion in Israel, however, appears to be divided on Kosovo. Aqoul, however, have a different take on the Muslim-Kosovo connection:
[Arab satellite channels] focused quite a lot on the Kosovo-American flag pairing and US … conditional support I suppose. Interesting imagery to be dominating the screen. The US could stand for this sort of positive imagery more often. One does not often get imagery on the Sats [sic] of hidjab [sic] wearing ladies leaning out of cars waving American flags wildly.
Lastly, I wonder what affect any military intervention in Kosovo (if it comes to that) will have on the major anti-war movement in the UK? The left part of the Stop The War Coalition are long term critics of Anglo-American intervention in the Balkans, in some cases going right back to the earlier Bosnia-Serb conflict. Somehow I don’t see the Muslim segment of the Coalition being so vocal in calling for a halt to military action which may, ultimately, end up supporting a Muslim people.