Entry # 120: February 22nd - Independence for Kosova
Roughly a week ago, the Kosovan people declared themselves independent from the Republic of Serbia. It is becoming apparent now that this is causing problems - not just for the Kosovan but also for those states that have recognized independence. Radical Serbs have attacked border posts and embassies, Russia threatens to acknowledge the independence of parts of what constitutes the Georgian state. Some European nations (Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Cyprus) have problems with independence as well. The state has been a historical part of Serbia for some time. It is too small to survive on its own easily. For the foreseeable future, it will rely on NATO and EU troops and civilian authorities, it even has the Euro as its currency, and surely seeks independence within the European Union some day. Recognizing Kosovan independence, by provoking Serbia, endangers Serbian accession to NATO and EU. Also, there is already Albania, why does the world need another state of Albanian nationality? So, has it been a mistake?
It does not matter whether Kosova has been part of Serbia for hundreds of years. Milosevic, by revoking autonomy, endangered Kosovan cultural survival - ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians followed. The movement for Independence has resulted from these circumstances and brought about an independent republic already in 1990, recognized only by Albania. Since then, massacres of Kosovan Albanians and Serbs have occurred. Serbia's interest, however, has been restricted to protecting the Serb minority, just as its interest in Bosnia is also just in protecting the Republika Srpska. Yugoslavia is dead.
What remains, is Serbia - a state whose interest has become clear: to foster the interest of Serbs. That, of course, may be entirely legitimate. But states do not just consist of one ethnic group. Immigration aside, many states also house nationalities different from the majoritarian, hegemonical one, and thus are obligated to negotiate between these different identities accordingly. If a state continues to favor one ethnicity unilaterally, and discriminate against another one, especially one that is a majority within a specific region, that state's legitimacy for representing all its nationalities is gone. The state of Serbia (and I do not at all subsume all Serbs under that - I am only speaking about my perception of official Serbian policy) does not care for Kosovan Albanians, it appears. Serbia has failed to be Kosova's keeper. Similarly, the interest of Kosova in the well-being of Kosovan Serbs seems diminished as well.
You could ask, who started it, who did this or that. In the end, I believe Serbia deserves most of the blame. Yet if Kosova continues to be unable to protect its Serb minority from acts of retribution, it should consider letting these parts of its new state join Serbia; this would undoubtedly be a difficult but wise choice. I do believe in the validity of the multinational idea. It just does not necessarily work. The nation state is still the best vehicle to protect the nation, and human beings appear to cling to their ethnicity and nationality. Wishing it weren't so doesn't help in the here and now - which is why the European model of creating an alliance of nation states has proven to be - so far - a fitting concept.
Of course, the political analysts point to the message to the outside world. What does Kosovan independence mean for Basques, Catalans, Curds, Scots, Northern Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Tibetans, Chechens, Ossetians, Abchasians, Palestinians, Lakota, Zapatistas, etc. etc. etc. - any other national minority with or without a nation state of their own, and currently claiming one or seeking (more) autonomy?
There is a moral answer: good news. At least by recognizing Kosovan independence, the principle of national and cultural sovereignty is somehow recognized. This does not mean that each and every nation needs to have its own state, but there should be guarantees to preserve cultural identity. There are degrees of suffering. Without wanting to ignore the plight of the Basques, maybe they don't actually need independence from Spain if they are able to prosper culturally and financially nevertheless. The real problem here is not Georgia either, but Curdistan, Chechnya, Tibet and Taiwan, above all others. Why? These regions matter (like Kosova does) because they affect some major power. East Timor independence has been accepted - why are these other regions so problematic? Chechnya defies the Russian Empire, and is a symbol for the continuing genocide and domination of non-Russian peoples by the Russian state. Tibetan culture is systematically destroyed by China, its people continually threatened. Taiwan defies imperial (oops, communist) China, and still is not recognized in its quest for full participation in the world community.
Kosova defies Serbia, and by that, Russia. Of course, Putin does not agree with independence, it weakens his stance in Chechnya. That he advocates independence for Georgian provinces is an extremely curious situation: Georgia should accept Ossetian and Abchasian independence movements, but Russia can continue to wreak havoc in Chechnya? Something isn't right there.
The political answer: it depends. Preserving peace and calm may be one side of the argument, but that apparently does not work if bloodshed is lurking beneath the calm surface. If Kosovan independence can prevent Kosovan Albanians and Serbs from dying, and Kosovan culture may be preserved, that is progress. If that means that there is more than one ethnically Albanian state, so be it. There are enough differences; also, there's more than one German state (and no one is seeking a new Anschluss, as far as I know), and the differences between the US and Canada are not that big either. One positive political result: both NATO and the EU have come to the aid of yet another Muslim country within Europe - notwithstanding its religion. Maybe there is hope for us yet in the bigger scheme of the current (alleged) clash of religions.
February 22nd, 2008