The Kosovo before independence

The Kosovo before independence

Kosovo may decide to declare its independence this coming Sunday, February 17.

International Herald Tribune (France) Columnist Roger Cohen sees cause for celebration in the imminent independence of Kosovo, though "Serbia will rail against what its prime minister calls 'this fictitious state on Serbian territory,' and the Russian bear will growl, and Balkan tensions will flare for a while ... . The fact is the independence of Kosovo is justified, unique and unavoidable. ... Serbia lost a nationalist gamble on Kosovo a long time ago; the differences stemming from it are unbridgeable. Further delay of the inescapable can only damage the region. ... European Union foreign ministers meet Monday and may agree on a 'platform' statement saying conditions for recognition have been met. A clear majority of the 27 European Union members - certainly no less than 20 - are expected to recognize Kosovo rapidly. ...Unanimity would be nice but broad consensus is sufficient. ... More important, the United States and Europe will march in step, not a frequent occurrence of late."

La Voix du Luxembourg (Luxembourg) "Most chancelleries are observing Kosovo on the verge of independence with a mixture of hope and anxiety", writes Laurent Moyse. "Once again, the EU is playing with fire in its own backyard. If it appears obvious that the cohabitation of Serbs and Albanians in the same state is basically a failure, the conditions in which this separation is taking place are far from ideal. ... Most striking is the fact that the Balkans symbolise Europe's inability to cement multiethnic societies. After the partition of Czechoslovakia and the dismantling of Tito's Yugoslavia, not all 20th century national constructions escaped the whims of autonomy. By failing to understand the vicissitudes of History, Europe is struggling to find a coherent response to the crisis that is perturbing it."

Dnevnik (Slovenia) There is no reason why the Balkans shouldn't be integrated in the EU, Ervin Hladnik writes, calling for the recognition of Kosovo: "Even today people are still saying that the war in former Yugoslavia began after Germany recognised the first two states to declare their independence [Slovenia and Croatia]. At the time there was just as much worry [as today] that the move would endanger the interests of neighbouring countries and destabilise the EU. There were fears of economic losses or even the political disintegration of the EU. ... Now that Kosovo has stated its intention to declare independence, similar warnings are being issued as in Slovenia in 1991. ... The recognition of Kosovo will make the province into a state in which the Albanians will be responsible for everything, including the safety of the Serbian minority. If that is what the people there want then there is really no point in stopping them."

Dnevnik (Bulgaria) Ivo Indjev criticises Bulgaria's failure to adopt an official position on Kosovo: "The EU supports Kosovo's independence and thus as an EU member Bulgaria is by implication on [Kosovo's] side. But tacitly ... the government is trying to sell its 'sitting on the fence' to the public as flexibility. In reality it is afraid of getting its face slapped - not by its own citizens but by the mighty hand of the Kremlin. ... We should not kid ourselves that we are neutral. When Bulgaria opposed nationalist tendencies in the Balkans and in 1992 became the first country to recognise the state of Macedonia, it became visible on the geo-political map. Foreign policy is, however, a projection of the mood at home. Seen in those terms one can say that in 1992 and in 1999 [when Bulgaria adopted a pro-NATO position in the conflict with Serbia] Bulgaria acted like an independent country - whereas now it is behaving like 'Russia's unfaithful wife'."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)
Not only political independence will present a major challenge to the government of an independent Kosovo. It will also be hard to get the economy going, believes Thomas Muster. Currently annual per capita GDP is only 1,100 euros - well below that of other countries in the region. In fact, though, Kosovo has large reserves of raw materials like lignite, lead or zinc. "The current state of Kosovo's economy does ... little to inspire confidence. Among the province's some two million inhabitants around 40 percent of those able to work are unemployed. Here youth and long-term unemployment are particularly serious problems. The infrastructure and energy supply are both in a wretched state, and in view of the volatile political environment and widespread corruption, foreign investors are showing little interest in making generous commitments."

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