Serbia and Kosovo discuss a split

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Sep 29 19:42:39 UTC 2007

Serbia and Kosovo discuss a split

Spain and Russia fear that Kovoso's independence may set a dangerous
precedent for other territories with nationalist leanings.

By Tom A. Peter

Kosovo and Serbia are set to have their first face-to-face talks at
the United Nations starting on Friday. The meeting is billed as the
final attempt to forge an agreement between the two about independence
for the breakaway province. The US and most EU states have said they
will support Kosovo's independence; however, opponents like Spain and
Russia worry that granting the restive Serbian province independence
may create worldwide instability by setting a precedent for areas like
the Basque region and pieces of the former Soviet empire.

The UN has administered Kosovo since 1999, when a NATO bombing
campaign forced Serbian troops from the province. Both sides are
approaching the talks firm in their positions, reports the British
Broadcasting Corp. Though Serbia appears ready to make concessions,
they may not be enough to satisfy Kosovo.

The Serbs say they plan to propose a comprehensive blueprint for
autonomy and hinted they might give up control over Kosovo's borders.

But Kosovo has made clear it will accept nothing short of independence
under UN supervision at the end of the negotiating process on 10

In an address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Albania's Prime
Minister Sali Berisha said that full independence for Kosovo is the
only solution that will "bring durable peace and stability to the
region," reports the United Nations News Wire. Mr. Berisha also denied
claims that he was trying to create a "greater Albania" by urging for
an independent Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians out number Serbs by
roughly nine to one.

"The claim that the independence of Kosova may lead to the creation of
Greater Albania cannot be farther from the truth," Mr. Berisha added,
using the Albanian name for the province.

"In reality, Kosova's independence will only end the fluidity of
Albanians in the Balkans, along with the idea of the creation of a
single Albanian State in the territories where they are a dominant
majority. The simple truth is that Kosova Albanians have decided in
their project of the future to join Brussels, not Tirana."


Using the right of reply, Serbia's representative criticized Mr.
Berisha for "openly calling for the violation" of the territorial
integrity of a UN Member State, particularly on the eve of such
crucial direct talks.

Serbian President Boris Tadic has accused the US of "undermining"
negotiations by supporting Kosovo's independence, reports the
Financial Times. Mr. Tadic has charged that only the UN Security
Council has the power to make a legitimate decision regarding the
future of Kosovo.

"If there's going to be a unilateral declaration of independence by
the provincial institutions in Kosovo, and it is accepted by the US
and others, it is a great danger for future stability," Mr Tadic told
the FT.


Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, said this week that only
independence for Kosovo could bring stability in the Balkans. She
hoped for an amicable outcome, even if the two sides did not agree on
the province's future status. "But there's going to be an independent
Kosovo. We're dedicated to that. It's the only solution that is
potentially stabilising for the Balkans rather than destabilising for
the Balkans."

Mr Tadic countered that such an outcome would set a precedent for
other breakaway movements and would have a destabilising impact. "All
countries in the world would be in the same situation [as Serbia] if
they were to lose part of their territory or the cornerstone of their

While the majority of European Union states, especially Britain and
France, will back Kosovo's bid for independence, Italy and Spain,
among others, have expressed reservations. Although Italy is likely to
offer support in the end, it has expressed concerns that Kosovo is too
poor to function as a viable state and will become a hotbed for crime,
reports Radio Free Europe. Spain is the only EU country to express
strong opposition, as it fears that Kosovo's independence may set a
dangerous precedent for its own Basque region, which already possesses
a strong separatist movement. Though hesitant EU states may impede
Kosovo's independence, Russia is likely to cause the biggest problems.

Spain is the only one of the large EU member states that has indicated
strong opposition to Kosovo's independence, although some reports
suggest that Madrid's opposition has weakened lately. Spain's concern
is not wanting to set a precedent for the possible independence of
some of its regions, which, like Kosovo under the 1974 Yugoslav and
Serbian constitutions, have strong legal guarantees of autonomy.
Romania and Slovakia are similarly concerned about possible
secessionist aspirations of their respective Hungarian minorities,
which, however, do not enjoy constitutional autonomy on the Kosovar or
Catalan models.

Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Cyprus are all
bound by traditional feelings of friendship toward Serbia and are
sensitive toward Belgrade's point of view.


Russian officials also repeat the Serbian argument that independence
for Kosovo will destabilize the Balkans. The Russians stress that
independence would create a "dangerous precedent" for resolving
"frozen" and other conflicts in the former Soviet space and elsewhere
in the world.

In an article from the Madrid-based daily ABC, summarized by the
Serbian Tanjug news agency, the Spaniards reiterated their concerns
about the spread of instability.

"This would, from the highest place in the international community,
add wind to the sails of separatists who wish to cancel the principle
of territorial integrity," the daily writes in a lengthy analysis of
the current Kosovo status process.


"Besides, independence would inevitably create renewed regional
instability, with potential to seriously 'infect' all neighbors," ABC

The article concludes that Kosovo's independence would represent "a
giant step backwards for all mankind's efforts to build diversified
communities made up of free citizens, capable of living in peace
despite the differences."

In a blog for the Guardian, Antonio Cassese, the first president of
the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and a
professor of law at the University of Florence, argues that an old
and, now rarely used, UN measure may allow Kosovo and Serbia to reach
a compromise. The measure would create a loose confederation,
allotting Kosovo virtual independence, but allowing Serbia influence
over its diplomatic decisions.

By means of a binding UN security council resolution, Kosovo could be
granted full and exclusive authority over its citizens and territory,
as well as limited capacity for action on the international scene. It
could be authorised to enter into trade agreements as well as
agreements concerning individuals (for example, admission and
circulation of foreigners, or extradition), plus the right to seek
admission to the UN (which does not require full sovereignty and

Kosovo would thus gain some essential trappings of statehood. However,
a decision-making body consisting of delegates from Kosovo, Serbia,
and the European Union would be given full authority over major
foreign policy issues (for example, alliances and relations with
international economic institutions), defence, borders (in case Kosovo
wished to join with Albania), and the treatment of Kosovo's Serbian
minority. As a result, Kosovo and Serbia would constitute two distinct
international subjects, bound by a confederation hinging on a common
decision-making body.

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