The breakdown of the former Yugoslavia finished with the declaration of Kosovo’s independence on Sunday 17th of February. This has been expected and discussed in international circles over a long period of time and it is a natural consequence of nationalistic tensions in Kosovo and Kosovo’s inability to find common language with Serbia.
Now in Kosovo only 6% of the population is Serbian, while in 1950 Serbs made half of the population. This is partially because of migrations in Balkans and partially because of ethical cleanings committed. Because only 6% Kosovar’s are Serbian, slogans like “Kosovo is Serbia” (that Serbs use as the main slogans in their campaigning) become a bit absurd. Nevertheless, this slogan is not absurd at all for an average Serbian. Kosovo is a significant centre of Serbian heritage, with hundreds of monasteries and folklore myths about Serbian land and medieval battles. Because Kosovo is in a sense a presentation of Serbia’s national identity, it is difficult it to give up what Serbs consider “holy land”. For people outside former Yugoslavia, recognition of Kosovo’s independence is a recognition of one nations right to freedom, speech and own culture. However, in Balkans the issue is more complicated. The reason why Kosovo’s Albanians do not want to be in Serbia is not because they are suppressed by the present government. It is a result of bad politics of Milosevic (former president of Serbia) that was famous for its suppression of Albanians. The present premier of Kosovo Hashim Tachi was a member of Albanians liberation Army that committed ethnical cleanings of Serbs and other non- Albanians in 90s. The success of these individuals in separating “Serbian” land from Serbs, is seen by the Serbian people as an Albanian victory, and thus reinforces the nationalistic tensions that were present in 90s. Kosovo’s Albanians are demanding independence because they want nothing to do with Serbia. Anti-Serbian feelings exist on Kosovo as well. Most recent big proof of this is the burning of 45 Serbian churches and many homes that resulted in 5000 Serbs leaving Kosovo in 2004. In such light the conformation of independence by USA and few members of EU, for Serbia presents an anti-Serbian policy, not only on a diplomatic level, but on a deeper level that has connections with national identity. No wonder that in such moment, a traditional saviour would be Russia.
As usual, Balkan’s problems are never solved in Balkans, they always require international attention and cause divisions on the international scene. Two months ago, when discussions about Kosovo were still happening, American president Bush sent to Russian president Putin a clear message that he is not going to lead the Cold War Politics. Yet, if we look at the present situation we could deduce that Imperialist Powers have gathered again against the mighty Soviet Bloc. On the day of the declaration, we could see people waving American and Albanian flags on Kosovo, while in Belgrade people were calling on “Mother Russia”.
By now USA and leading countries of EU have recognized Kosovo’s independence, while Russia, China, Spain, Israel have ceased to recognize it. Russia is firmly against it, while Spain and Israel are hesitating because of the effect that this declaration will have on Palestine, Catalonia, Basque and other separatist movements in the world. Serbs continue to emphasize how this act is clearly against the UN’s 1244 resolution (this resolution protects Serbia’s territorial integrity as long as she fulfils the requirements of the resolution and makes every plea of Kosovars for independence illegal if consensus on both sides is not made) and jeopardizes international law. EU diplomats, however, think that Kosovo is an exception that will not give any motivation to separatist movements around the world.
Even though Serbia promised that she will fight against the independence by only using diplomatic measures, the police failed to stop the violence in which an Albanian student from Kosovo was burned in fire set in American and Croatian embassies in Belgrade. Even though Boris Tadic , Serbian president, promised that he will keep Serbia opened to EU and the world while in the same time defending its right on Kosovo, he failed to fulfil that promise. Germany and USA have stopped their diplomatic relations with Serbia. Serbia has closed its borders with Kosovo. The situation has reached a deadlock, as Russia has threaten with using arm force if NATO’s army on Kosovo uses force contrary to the UN’ resolution 1244.
Even though one could think that Serbia has the same policy as she had in 1998, when Milosevic’s(former Yugoslavian president) troops were still in Kosovo and NATO was bombing Yugoslavia, such impression may be misleading. Serbia has a democratic president whose government was the one that ended Milosevic’s rule. Yet it seems that Serbian nationalistic feelings can overcome any democracy. The government started the campaign using diplomacy but very soon the momentum of anti-Albanian feelings took over. The premier of Serbia Vojislav Kostunica declared that time in Serbia from now on will be counted “from the moment that Kosovo declared independence until the moment Kosovo is Serbian again”.
It is sad to admit that the present declaration of Kosovo’s independence is not a symbol of freedom and democracy, it is not a guarantee that it will be multiethnic and provide equal rights for all its citizens. This declaration is a result of serious conflict that exists in Balkans, between Serbs and Albanians. We should work on resolving it. Even though people generally believe that Kosovo is a beginning of a stable era in Balkans, recent events have proven that this may not be correct. But what is the solution? Inevitably, Kosovo must be independent and Albanians will not be satisfied with anything less. On the other side Serbs will not accept it. We hope with time, these differences will be overcome. Still, on the today’s international scene Kosovo is the most sensitive issue that may escalate into a greater conflict.
Natalija Dobrovic and Ema Vergles (Montenegro and Croatia, AC06-08)
– United World College Student Magazine –