Sunday, 17 February 2008

Independence Day

I was excited to hear that Kosovo has declared its independence from Serbia. The move has been supported by most of its neighbours in the EU and the US, but opposed by Serbia itself and Russia, who has blocked the move in the UN Security Council. And there will continue to be legal wrangles over declaration in the coming months.

After the recent violent history in the region, it was refreshing to hear some in the region talking of "an end" to their troubles, "freedom from tyranny" and "rebirth" of both the region and their own lives. Its an exciting time for the residents there, who have suffered for so long with the break of the former Yugoslavia and the resultant violence throughout the 1990s.

Its a big test for the EU, as Alyn Smith MEP notes in his blog, and their credibility as an actor on the international stage is at stake. For me, this is a chance for the EU to step up and take responsibility for state-building within the territory of Europe - something it has been accused of shirking in the past. It will also test how resolute the parliament in Kosovo, given the opposition to the move in Serbia.

One of the more disturbing elements of the process for me was hearing the reaction of the Serbian leaders to the news. President Tadic has indicated there will be an escalation of conflict in the region while the Serbian PM talked of securing "freedom for his people" by making Kosovo remain within Serbia. This may cause a larger problem - for Serbia, who are intent on joining the EU. If Serbia causes undue hassles for Kosovo by imposing unilateral sanctions or even (and I hope this will not occur) launching a military intervention, then their possibility of joining Europe's elites will prove remote.

Serbia's reaction to the declaration is understandable. And, presumably, a similar reaction would occur in Spain if the Basques or Catalans declared their independence, or even here, were the First Minister to declare unilaterally the independence of Scotland. The difference in this case is that Kosovo, crucially, has the support of the EU and the US. While Russia continues to oppose in the Security Council, Serbia will have a case. But with every passing day, and more international acceptance, Kosovo will move closer to statehood - and further away from former overlord.

One only hopes our great nation will follow suit.


Andy 19 February 2008 at 16:58  

Lord Foulkes seems to be taking the credit for Kosovan independence - at least according to a motion to the Parliament in his name.

Ah, these lords - amazing what you can do with a peerage these days!

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