Today is 21 February 2008: four days after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia without waiting to be recognized first. The whole world, and especially the Balkans, is watching things in Kosovo very carefully and now we see reactions that were initially expected – even before 17 February 2008. Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Cyprus and Greece oppose Kosovo’s declaration of independence; Serbia, Russia and China firmly oppose it; USA, UK, France, Germany, Slovenia, Afghanistan and Turkey recognize it; Bulgaria, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have not decided what their positions are yet. The question is whether those reactions are justified or not.If we try to see every single country’s concerns within its territory and globally, we will see that each of them is right in its current decision.
First of all, Kosovo has been part of Serbia up to now despite U.N. and NATO forces’ presence since the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999. In politics no government is going to give up part of its territory for no reasons. Moreover, Kosovo is considered by the Serbians the cradle of the Serbian civilization, so apart from territorial rights, the Serbians claim to have historic rights on this province as well no matter how inconsistent such an argument is. Furthermore, according to the U.N. Charter every U.N. member’s territory is intact unless there is unanimity, so this is another thing the Serbians are using right now for the sake of Kosovo’s remaining part of Serbia.
Russia and China, two of the five permanent members in the U.N. Security Council firmly oppose Kosovo’s declaration of independence – Russia because Serbia is its ally and China because it wouldn’t want Taiwan to do the same. If it wasn’t for that, nobody would predict what their reaction would have been. Russia and Serbia have been allies for a long time but Serbians’ electing west-oriented president [Boris Tadic] is never considered a good move from Moscow. At the same time China is a Russian ally and furthermore recognizing Kosovo from their part would mean that they will have to recognize Taiwan (and Tibet) as well, unless they show evident hypocrisy.
There is a group of other European countries that oppose Kosovo’s declaration of independence as well. Like China, they have fears of separatism within their territories as well. Romania and Slovakia are concerned about such possibility among their Hungarian minorities whereas Spain already knows about its Basque region’s wish to govern itself regardless of Madrid.
European countries, whose state of the economy is in a good state compared to that of the Balkans as a whole, almost immediately recognized Kosovo. Those countries are UK, France, Germany, Denmark and Italy. And, while in the latter there is a political crisis which is followed by the dissolution of Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s government, there are no fears of separatism within the country which gives the Italian government the convenience to recognize Kosovo as an independent country. Furthermore, those countries are far away from the Balkans so the worst thing that they can expect is tension in front of their embassies in Serbia which unfortunately already happened to the Slovenian (because of Slovenia’s current leadership of the European Union), to the Albanian and to the U.S. embassies.
Let us look at the way things are going on in the Balkans these days. What is each country’s decision on the Kosovo issue and is there anything acceptable in it?! This is a rather interesting question and first of all we have to find out how the Balkan peoples feel about an independent Kosovo. After reading a lot of opinions in the newspapers’ forums and also on Youtube, I found out that the Balkan peoples are divided on this issue on two groups and those two groups are religious – on the one side we have Orthodox Christians, and on the other side we have Muslims. Basically, each of those two groups is defending the people with which they have common religion. The Balkans have historically been a hotbed of nationalism, as well as ethnic and religious conflicts and it seems that these sentiments are still brewing.
However, on governmental level such passionate issues are, fortunately, not determining. Good examples are Bulgaria, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Those three countries have not come to a decision yet whether to recognize Kosovo or not. I believe that they have a reasonable explanation to take their time. First of all, Bosnia-Herzegovina is an unstable federation – unstable because of the region of Serbian Republic where the Bosnian Serbs are. The latter are rather agitated because of Kosovo’s declaration of independence and threatened to do the same thing as Kosovo had done on 17 February 2008. As to the Bulgarian and Macedonian governments, I believe that they have made the best decision – wait in order to see whether the plan “Ahtisaari” works and then take a decision. It looks like that they use their minds and not what their people say because the people are not always correct. What would have happened if Bulgaria and Macedonia had been among the first states to have made a decision? Their names would have constantly been mentioned in the media since Kosovo’s initial intentions last week. However, instead of searching for popularity, Sofia and Skopje are waiting for their turn – not to be the first and not to be the last countries to recognize or not to recognize Kosovo’s declaration of independence. I believe that it makes sense because they would not want their decisions to be one of the most remembered.
Bulgaria and Macedonia are presented with yet another delicate situation in their decision whether or not to recognize Kosovo, as the countries have their own minority population – Turkish and Albanian respectively. Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev recently said that Bulgaria was economically vulnerable, most probably referring to the commonly accepted fact that wherever there is a vulnerable economy, there is a higher possibility of separatist sentiment. However, in terms of separatism, Bulgaria is in times better situation than is Macedonia. While, in 2001 there was unrest in Macedonia’s western territory where there is an Albanian population, Bulgaria has never had any problems with its Turkish minority in Rhodope Mointain.
Greece’s and Cyprus’ decisions not to recognize Kosovo is relevent because recognizing Kosovo would most likely mean that they would also have to recognize the Turkish Cypriot Republic. Albania’s and Turkey’s recognition of Kosovo was a move that was expected by the Balkan peoples. However, I believe that Ankara’s decision was not well reconsidered because its eastern territory’s population is Kurdish-dominated and the Turks recently had clashes with them.