The Serbian province of Kosovo, with capital Pristina, is expected to declare independence on 17 February 2008. Kosovo’s Albanian majority wants to separate the province from its belonging to the territory of Serbia and continue its existence as an independent country. However bright Pristina’s ambitions look at first sight, the entire procedure is rather long and delicate. Even if Kosovo declares independence on 17 February 2008 and thus become an independent country, gloomy days await its people. Internationally, most EU countries and the U.S. support an independent Kosovo, but Serbia and Russia firmly oppose it. After it lost Montenegro in 2006, Serbia will not easily let another part of its territory separate from it. Belgrade already came out with a warning – if Kosovo becomes independent, there will be high taxes imposed by the Serbian government to Kosovans who would like to enter Serbia for whatever reasons. I assume that other inconveniences to Pristina will be imposed. Kosovo may be denied good relations with Serbia in terms of business and any other kind of support that is common between countries such as humanitarian aid, for example. The latter is needed in Kosovo since there is high unemployment rate, about 40% of the population, and common needs such as water and electricity are not being delivered on a permanent basis. What people who are not involved in the conflict would ask themselves in this case is why the Albanian majority in Kosovo would want independence since the living conditions are harsh. The answer lies in the 1999 war there when Serbian troops entered the province and tried to banish the Albanian population. I believe that their not wishing to be subordinate to a government whose troops tried to expatriate them is what caused their decisiveness in creating a new state.
However, not everyone in Kosovo supports a possible independence. Let us not forget the province’s northern part where the majority is Serbian. Serbians are a minority in Kosovo, only 5% of the entire population, and, although they are a majority in the province’s northern part, they are concerned about a possible independence which would separate them from Serbia. Moreover, although they are a majority in the province’s northern part, they are concerned about possible hostilities toward them from the Albanian majority in Kosovo as a whole and that is why they see the Serbian government as their last hope.
The plan drawn by former UN envoy at the Kosovo status process negotiations Martti Ahtisaari that might be applied if Kosovo becomes independent is the least bad. If his plan is followed in an independent Kosovo, the latter will have limited arm forces, strong provisions for the Serbian minority, commitment to multicentric democracy, and any part of Kosovo’s territory being denied joining another country.
At first sight this plan is terrific: Serbian minority will be satisfied and there will be multicentric democracy. Overall the entire population will be satisfied in such case. Furthermore, limited arm forces will not allow Kosovo to even try to harm any country in the region if Pristina decides to do so, not to mention the prohibition of joining any country. The latter follows an initial prediction that since Albanians are a majority in Kosovo, they would like not only to separate themselves from Serbia but also to join the country where their origins are from. Think of a bigger Albania – countries in the region would fear it and, what would be even more disturbing would be the growing Albanian population in the western part of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia who would probably like to do the same – join Albania. Imagine the today’s Albania adding Kosovo and western Macedonia – it will double in size.
However, the plan drawn by Martti Ahtisaari looks too naive to me. All those conditions that it would impose will be temporary – sooner or later Kosovo will most likely have their own army; sooner or later strong provisions for the Serbian minority will be cut; sooner or later this multicentric democracy might turn into unicentric. I base my latter interpretation on the fact that Kosovo lacks any data about its current population, not to mention the data about its proportion and about the two ethnic groups’ fertility rates.
Nevertheless, no matter how many people currently live in Kosovo and what percentage of them are Albanians or Serbians, those two ethnic groups are extremely different – they speak different languages and have different religions and custom so in this regard even if Kosovo becomes independent it will be separated and there will be bigotry within its territory until there are those two ethnic groups.
That is why I strongly believe that not the entire province of Kosovo should declare independence if independence is inevitable. In order for a more stable environment in the Balkans I believe that at least northern Kosovo, where Serbians are a majority should belong to Serbia.