Kosovo flag and solar panelIt was a crisp, sunny Sunday in Brussels, with families walking in the parks and the low sun making St Josse feel less drab. When leaving home I passed a couple of cars with Kosovo flags hanging out of the open windows. I wished the driver ‘felicitations‘ for independence as I passed, and he smiled and waved. It was in some small way a link to the mass outpouring of emotion in Pristina yesterday as documented comprehensively by Mark Mardell.

The press coverage of independence has been mixed, with plenty citing the divisions within the EU, and the opposition to independence from Russia and Serbia. While I would not like to be one of the 100000 Serbs in Mitrovica today, the reason I support independence is for those 2 million Albanians who now have some prospect of putting their future in their own hands. The road will not be easy, but ask yourself this: what other option was better? Being part of Serbia is unviable, merging with Albania impossible. So while it might divide the Balkans further independence is the only route and I wish the people and Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi all the best. I so hope their joy is not short-lived.

I then began to wonder what event in UK politics generated any kind of positive aspiration and excitement since Blair’s victory in 1997? What, if anything, could manage to make people take to the streets and be excited and impassioned? Take a look at The Guardian about the environment today, or any other UK daily for that matter, and I just feel like tearing my hair out.


  1. And what exactly do you disagree with? I assure you that I have read plenty, but simply reading is insufficient. I am from the Balkans, a place that the West has never been able to understand (you can refer to Churchill’s memoirs for that).

  2. I completly disagre with you Penko. I advise you to go and read more about history and specifically about the Ballkans because you don’t have a clear vision about this issue.

  3. Penko: I think you’ll find that Europeans weren’t the only ones to engage in killing, looting and slavery. The whole world did it. Indeed, one of the reasons the Spanish, for instance, found it so easy to bring down the might of the Aztec empire with mere handfulls of men was because so many tribes within and around the Aztec yoke rebelled against repressive Aztec rule. It’s really not the case that all the world was living peacefully, and then we evil Europeans turned up, to transform whole continents into carnage and killing.

    But back to Kosovo: it will only be a failed state if Europeans let it become so. We are now effectively an imperial power in the Balkans, and particularly Kosovo. If a continental Union of 500 million people can bring to heel two small peripheral countries like Serbia and Kosovo, while keeping them at peace, then I fear there is not much hope for any of us. The EU must be willing to do whatever needs to be done to finally turn the Balkans into a region of democratic order, ending years of hatred of difference. As one European strategist recently said when talking about Kosovo: ‘We have a big stick. But that big stick is locked in a safe in the cellar. And it would take a lot to make us get the keys out and go downstairs. But we can do it.’ That is to say, while we want to do things through persuasion, it might be necessary in the future to beat people into place.

    RZ: As I understand it, Europeans did not want to create a Greater Albania. Turning Kosovo into its own country would make it easier for us to govern than hitching it on to Albania, which already has numerous problems. The major European powers and the United States decided that this was to be the course of action, and once they have decided, no-one can really do much to stop them. Power always remains the backbone of international relations.

  4. Can sombody explain to me why it was not possible for Kosovo to merge with Albania? My understanding of international law is that while breaking away from a country and founding your own is not legal under any circumstances, it is possible to leave an join another country.

    Clearly I do not have much of an idea of international law, I am just asking.

  5. James,
    I can see that you, as most Brits are happy with your accomplishments on the international scene in the past 5-6 centuries.
    What you replaced is not in question, in question is how it was replaced. Americans killing millions of natives, the French “educating the savages”, the Belgians raping the Congo, isn’t it all the same? Of course “The United Kingdom is and has been for many decades a place of safety and prosperity”. That’s easy when you get everything for free from wherever the hell you feel like it.

    Anyway, I wasn’t trying to bash Britain, the point was Kosovo. I’m not sure what you mean by short border. Kosovo is mostly surrounded by Serbia. The only way out is Albania. If you’ve ever been to Albania you would know that moving business through there is kinda hard. It’s not a coincidence that Albanians and Kosovars are currently the biggest organized crime problem in Europe, and one of the major ones in the States. Are you aware that they replaced both the Italian and Russian mafias from Jersey and New York in the course of a decade. Just pray that they don’t get easier access to the EU.

    Kosovo will be a failed state, mark my word. Are you aware that they asked Bulgaria for electricity 2 hours after declaring independence? That’s how self-sufficient they are.
    As I said before, another bottomless hole for EU’s budget.

    P.S. Albanians do not burn their wives, but are known to heavily beat them, so are Kosovars.

  6. Jon, you’re absolutely right. Independence was the only option for Kosovo. I’m pleased that the EU big powers could stand in solidarity on this issue.

    Penko: The ‘you ruled an empire so have no right to lecture anyone on human rights’ approach really doesn’t work. In many places, what we—the British—replaced was a hell of a lot better than what went before. It was the British, after all, that put an end to slavery as well as all sorts of weird practices in India and Africa (not least wife-burning). The United Kingdom is and has been for many decades a place of safety and prosperity for all in comparison to many other places, and I am proud of that.

    And Kosovo cannot be ‘cut off by the Serbs’. The border between the two is short, and supplies and trade can move between the other borders, not least between Kosovo and Albania. The Kosovoans, having be ‘ethnically cleansed’ by the Serbian regime in 1999 have every right to their freedom. That is what makes this case so exceptional. The Basques in Spain, or the Scottish nationalists in the United Kingdom, have not been repressed or ‘ethnically cleansed’. They have the same rights as everyone else in their respective European Union Member States. So long as central governments do not violently repress secessionist movements, they should remain part of their respective countries. But this was self-evidently not the case with Kosovo and Serbia.

  7. Well, talking about rights…
    First, I wouldn’t talk about protecting human rights if I was a citizen of the former Empire that took away the rights of most of the known world for hundreds of years:)
    And ok, if London is a bad example, we still have Australia, Canada, etc., all former colonies, all with indigenous population. I would think they have much more rights to secede, since they were the original inhibitors of the lands in question, as opposed to the Kosovars.

    Almost half a million ethnic Serbs were cleansed out of Kosovo after 1999. What about their rights?
    I’m not saying life in Serbia is great for minorities, but it is, after all, their country.
    Partitioning it is illegal, under any and all international laws. Just another Palestine.

    The Western media (especially American and British) is completely biased on the issue, taking advantage of the low level of political and international knowledge of the regular Brit, and especially American.

    The EU just has no idea what it got itself into.
    Kosovo will be cut off economically and politically from the rest of Europe by the Serbs. It will remain illegal on the international scene, since Russia, China, Greece, and many others will never recognize it.
    In short, it will be the new EU “pet-project”, where a large percentage of the EU’s foreign aid budget will disappear.

    And just remember, the Serbians survived the Austro-Hungarians and the Ottomans.

  8. Thanks for the comment. Seems that comments about minorities in the UK are very much en vogue as a means to argue against an independent Kosovo – there have been plenty of people saying such things on British radio. However there is one major difference: the rights of those groups in the UK are (broadly speaking) not in question, but what prospect of protection of human or political rights would Kosovars have as part of Serbia? I’m very unconvinced of that…

  9. Jon,

    I usually find myself agreeing with your opinions. Not so in this case.
    Kosovo should have never been independent. There was never a Kosovar state, nationality, language, etc. The simple fact that Kosovars are a majority in this part of the independent state of Serbia, means nothing.
    How would you feel if Indians or Pakistanis find it necessary to proclaim the parts of London in which they are a majority the independent state of Indopakilondonstan, for example?
    Just remember what happened when the great powers humiliated Germany after WWI. Serbia, fortunately does not have the military power of Germany, so I hope history will not repeat itself.

    Independent Kosovo creates a very dangerous precedent, which might easily destroy the ethnic peace in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Spain, etc.

    Are we going back to the times when the Brits and French, now joined by the bigger and stupider US, decided the faiths and borders of independent nations?

    By the way, I’m not a Serbian, and don’t like today’s Serbia in particular, but still think it’s unfair to them to recognize Kosovo.

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