Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kosovo’s clock is ticking

Rumblings in Europe and beyond, not violence, the threat

The European Union, the bastion of peace and prosperity rose from the ashes of two sanguinary World Wars and today it still portrays that tranquil image, notwithstanding the wars and bloodshed of the Balkans in the 1990s.

The impending Kosovo independence, a direct fallout from those Balkan wars, may not trigger an all-out war in the region, but it will definitely result in some major indelible changes not only in the region but also world afar.

Kosovo’s population is 90 percent Albanian, and their goal of independence was reiterated February 8 by Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. “We have confirmation by around 100 countries that they are ready to recognise Kosovo’s independence immediately after we declare it. We will have a powerful and massive recognition,” he said.

Addressing journalists after the regular weekly meeting with Joachim Ruecker, chief of the UN mission in Kosovo, Thaci refused to divulge either the names of his list of countries or specify when he plans to declare independence.

In keeping with his declared intentions to keep his supporters mostly Western powers in confidence about intended declaration of independence, there is a general murmur in diplomatic circles that February 17 may be the D-day.

On the other hand, Serbia continues with its hawkish statements as the EU-backed reelected Serbian President Boris Tadic warned of an escalation in conflicts if Kosovo declares independence.

Speaking at the opening of an annual security conference in Munich, Tadic who enjoys the support of powers that are supporting Kosovo independence, said, “Should Serbia be partitioned against its will ... it could in turn result in the escalation of many existing conflicts, the reactivation of a number of frozen conflicts, and the instigation of who knows how many new conflicts.”

But his comments try to cater to the sentiments of Serbian people as well as play along the European officials, especially the EU’s enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn who has been instrumental in offering all the carrots to Serbia thus openly helping Tadic to win again.

On January 28, before the final round of Serbian presidential elections, EU foreign ministers offered Serbia a deal on free trade and travel, presenting it as a “signal to the Serbian people,” while denying that it was intended to influence the vote.

Now, with the win of the pro-EU Tadic in Serbia, the EU is in a win-win position. First it can go ahead and give recognition to an independent Kosovo and then as Serbia accepts the carrot of EU membership, Belgrade has to regularise its relationship with an independent Kosovo.

Commenting on the victory of Tadic, Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission said the result was “a victory for democracy in Serbia and for the European values we share.” He added: “Your victory comes at a critical moment for Serbia and for the western Balkans. We wish to accelerate Serbia’s progress towards the European Union.”

The European Union on one hand has been supporting pro-Western Tadic on Serbian political landscape but it has given a go-ahead on the other hand to an EU police and justice mission to Kosovo. Without specifying a launch date, the mission was approved in writing to allow the EU’s 1,800 police and legal officials to take over from the United Nations in Kosovo, under UN Security Council resolution 1244, which refers to an international security presence.

The 16,000-strong NATO force, however will remain in Kosovo, which is still a province of Serbia. Kosovo has been run by the UN since a US-led NATO bombing campaign drove out Serb forces accused of a brutal crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

The imminent independence of Kosovo will fan the forces of separatism in rest of Europe and other parts of the world as it comes under the aegis of the UN mandate. In an interview with New Europe recently in Brussels, Joseba Azkarraga Rodero, Minister, Department of Justice, Employment and Social Security, Basque Country in Spain, reiterated its fallout on other simmering conflicts.

Stressing “Fighting for self determination is the right of the people,” Rodero said, “We support the rights of self-determination of Scottish and Kosovo people through peaceful and democratic means to reach such ends.”

On the other cases of such struggles, he added, “People have been fighting for their own states. Large states talk of borders and that is not correct. We can see cases of Kosovo and Scotland – similar cases where people are fighting for self determination.”

Moreover, at the Russia-NATO meeting last December, held in Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists, “We are for a solution which will be acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina and only for government bodies which will be fully empowered to ensure security.”

Asked to comment on Moscow’s response to a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, Lavrov said, “Reaction will be based on international law and I very much hope that other members of international community will proceed on that basis too.”

Lavrov called the projected solution “as a precedent,” adding, “How the Kosovo crisis is going to evolve is being looked at by a lot of other countries in the world and not only countries in the Balkans. So it has to do with international law, Helsinki act and any body who goes against them, will certainly go on a slippery path and not help stability of Europe.”

Arguing that such a solution for Kosovo will set a dangerous precedent for separatist inspirations elsewhere like Basque, Scottish and other regions, Russia has supported Serbia’s stance at the UN Security Council to keep Kosovo within Serbia but with greater autonomy.

Last but not least, the European Union along with the US has been again supporting Kosovo independence without reacting to an earlier report in this newspaper about the rise of Wahhabism and the tightening of the grip of fundamental Islam over Kosovo’s society where the majority population is Muslim.

The rampant use of foreign money from Saudi Arabia and other countries to spread “intolerant” and “puritan” form of Wahhabism is going to allow anti-West terrorism to rear its ugly head right in the back yard of the European Union. But until there is no blast, no killings of innocent people and no public outcry, the Western leaders will behave the problem is not festering.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Mr. Singh! I was beginning to wonder whether or not everyone in Europe had slipped into a coma on the Kosovo issue!