Issue Report: Kosovo independence

Should Kosovo be independent?

Kosovo is likely to declare and achieve independence in 2008. Kosovo’s modern day quest for independence stems from its 1999 war with Serbia, in which Serbian forces, under the command of Slobodan Milosevic, enterred Kosovo with the intent to perform ethnic cleansing. The United States and NATO launched in 1999 intervening air-strikes to drive back Serbian forces and successfully end the conflict.

After the war ended, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1244 that placed Kosovo under transitional UN administration (UNMIK) and authorized KFOR, a NATO-led peacekeeping force of 16,000 to remain in Kosovo. Since then, multiple instances of ethnic violence have occurred between Albanians and Serbs, the worst of which was seen in 2004. All of this has renewed calls within Kosovo for independence. In early 2007, a U.N. special envoy proposed that Kosovo declare independence under the close stewardship of the EU, with security and cultural guarantees for its Serbian minority. The Bush administration and most of Europe back the plan, but Moscow has rejected it, creating significant uncertainty regarding the outcome of the movement toward independence. With the passing in December, 2007 of an international deadline to broker a deal between Serbia and Kosovo, many think that Kosovo will declare independence soon.

The debate over Kosovo independence revolves around numerous questions: 1. Does Kosovo have a right to independence? 2. Would independence lead to conflict with Serbia or ethnic Serbians inside Kosovo? 3. Would independence be a force for stability or instability in the region and internationally? 4. Would the quest for Kosovar independence strain relations between Russia and the West? 5. Will Kosovo’s move to independence gain the backing of the United States and the EU? 6. Would an independent Kosovo be a viable state? As Kosovo has come closer to independence in 2007 and 2008, the pro and con responses to these questions have become lively around the world, and the fate of Kosovo remains unclear.

See Wikipedia: Kosovo declaration of independence for more background.

Kosovo viability: Would an independent Kosovo be a viable state?

Kosovo is capable of governing itself independently

Agim Ceku, Prime Minister of Kosovo, "Succeeding in Kosovo", Washington Post, 12/12/06

“In the past several years, Kosovo has undergone a remarkable transformation. Most of the responsibilities of governing have been transferred from the U.N. Mission to the Provisional Government. Kosovo has a sound microeconomic foundation, as well as a tax system with few exemptions and low marginal rates. Our labor laws are among the most flexible in Europe and the government has normalized private property laws. While the judiciary and security sector still need deeper, fundamental reforms, Kosovo has by and large developed functional and effective institutions.”

Kosovo independence will foster national pride and progress

Many Kosovars are extremely excited to become independent. They feel that they will take much more pride in their country and hope for its future. This will make them much more likely to work hard for its progression and independent viability.

Ethnic divisions make an independent Kosovo the most viable

The ethnic divisions between Serbia and Kosovo are very substantial, with Kosovo being 90% ethnic Albanian and Serbia being majority ethnic Serbian. Given the ethnic divisions and history between these two groups, the current arrangement is not viable, and will continue to render Kosovo disfunctional. An independent Kosovo would function more coherently and effectively.

An independent Kosovo is the least bad option now

Pat Cox, former President of the European Parliament, argued on 2/14/05

that, “Kosovo has nowhere left to go other than independence. Returning to a state relationship with Serbia is anathema to the 90 per cent of the population that is ethnic Albanian, and forcing such a solution would reignite war. Any protectorate option would be seen by Kosovo Albanians as merely the buying of time at their expense. And there are no viable candidate organisations to take on the role: the UN’s political capital in Kosovo is exhausted after its five years of inadequate, stop-gap administration, and the EU is not geared or willing to take over Kosovo’s governance.”

An independent Kosovo would actually become part of the EU

Kosovo does not intend to “go it alone” as an independent nation, but, rather, to join with the EU. Therefore, Kosovo is not seeking “independence”, per se, but rather the opportunity to become a part of the EU, where it can certainly survive as a viable state.

Kosovo is too underdeveloped for independence

Serbs do not enjoy freedom of movement, there is little decentralized power-sharing with local communities, political and legal institutions have yet to mature, political infighting is rampant, crime and corruption are high, patronage systems are deeply embedded in the clannish structure of Albanian society, poverty and economic woes persist, and all of this undermines Kosovo’s efforts to attract foreign capital. These are not good conditions for a move to independence and viability.

An independent Kosovo would be financially costly to its neighbors

M. Bozinovichand, "Kosovo Independence: A Costly Supposition", 4/10/04

“Kosovo might be of similar fate [to Albania – see below] simply because the proponents of Albanian nationalism want to grant it independence yet it is unclear whether they are also willing to pay an exorbitant tribute to the Kosovo Alabanian government whose taxable base of less then 2 million people earning average of $30 per month cannot yield not 1% of required costs to run that country. Case in point is the $2 billion cost of American presence on only one-fifth of the province. Multiplied by 5 sectors that Kosovo is split into, the cost approaches $10 billion annually and even that presence is insufficient to provide complete security to the area. Factoring in the taxable base and potential revenues that Kosovo government may acquire from various kinds of legitimate enterprise, the independent Kosovo entity may cost foreign sponsors at least $5 billion annually to sustain it in addition to value-depleting activities exported out of there such as drugs, prostitution and weapons that may never be eradicated.”

An independent Kosovo would have to pay impossible debts to Serbia

The Kosovo region owes Serbia a significant amount of money for what the country has invested in Kosovo over the years. It is presumable that Kosovo would have to compensate Serbia for these investments if it were to gain independence, but the cost of this indebtedness could be more than Kosovo can bear.

Northern Kosovo serbs may secede from an independent Kosovo

North of the Ibar river, Kosovo’s serbs are largely opposed to an independent Kosovo and have threatened that they would secede. This would undermine the viability of a Kosovo state and possibly lead to violence or even war.

Violence? Would Kosovo independence reduce tension and violence in the region?:

Delaying Kosovo independence will escalate violence and instability

Any delay of independence in Kosovo would be seen as a sign of weakness in Serbia, and exploited to attempt to disunite the political factions in Kosovo that are set on a course to independence. This could lead to instability and violence.

Serbia's public will not support a violent response to Kosovo independence

Political parties in Serbia have all explicitly ruled out, in recent elections, the idea of starting another war over keeping Kosovo within Serbia’s boundaries. This, and the fact that an international military presence remains in Kosovo, makes the possibility of Serbian military resistance to Kosovo independence highly remote.

The potential of violence should not deter a principled move to an independent Kosovo

The potential for violence and conflict should not deter Kosovo’s people from pursuing independence. Because independence is just in Kosovo’s case, the use of violence and revolution toward those ends is also just.

Kosovo Albanians seek a peaceful transition to independence

The historic pacifism of the Kosovars makes it unlikely that they will act in an aggressive, unprovoked manner. This, in addition to the presence of international security forces, makes the outbreak of violence less likely.

Kosovo independence could spark conflict with Serbia around Metrovica

Metrovica is a northern Kosovo city existing close to the border with Serbia. 40% of Kosovo Serbs live in and north of this city. A number of concerns surround this area in the event of a Kosovo declaration of independence. First, it is possible that the ethnic Serb policemen there will drop their Kosovo uniforms and enter Serbia, which could be taken as a major red flag on the part of Kosovo nationalists and reason for taking defensive military measures. In addition, it is possible that Serbia will, out of concern for its ethnic population in the north of Kosovo around Metrovica, invade or take measures to protect these groups. These Serbian concerns have led to some proposals to partition the area north of Metrovica away from an independent Kosovo.[1] All of these possibilities are real concerns for the outbreak of violence in the event of a declaration of Kosovo independence.

Russia backs Serbian opposition to Kosovar independence

There is some speculation that Russia would militarily support Serbia in suppressing Kosovar independence.

Northern Kosovo serbs may secede from an independent Kosovo

North of the Ibar river, Kosovo’s serbs are largely opposed to an independent Kosovo and have threatened that they would secede. This would undermine the viability of a Kosovo state and possibly lead to violence or even war.

Many EU foreign ministers fear violence following Kosovo independence

Kosovo nationalists have been eager to win the approval of EU foreign ministers on their bid for independence. Yet, many of these foreign ministers are hesitant to give their blessings out of concern for an outbreak of violence following independence.

An opaque international diplomatic climate makes conflict more likely in Kosovo

Whenever world powers are unclear or silent about the their position in a conflict regarding sovereignty and independence, there is room for miscalculation. Serbia may calculate that the international community would stand on the sidelines if it acted to suppress Kosovar independence.

An independent Kosovo might discriminate against Kosovar Serbs.

Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have, in the past, discriminated against ethnic Serbs. The concern is that, without control from a central Serbian government, Kosovo Albanians may feel more free to discriminate against the Serbs in Kosovo.

Right to independence? Does Kosovo have a right to independence?:

Ethnic Albanians have an historic claim to Kosovo

Ethnic Albanians, composing 90% of the population of Kosovo, have a strong historic claim to an independent Kosovo. Kosovo-Albanian nationalism really began in the late 19th century, but their consistent claims to an independent Kosovo were repeatedly unfairly denied after WWI by the Great Powers who gave Kosovo to the more powerful Serbia and by Tito who denied them independence in an effort to placate Serbian desires.

Serbia illegally annexed Kosovo

Kosovo's autonomy within Yugoslavia supports moves to independence

Kosovo cannot be likened to other modern secessionist movements

Kosovars strongly desire independence

Kosovars have a long history of struggling for independence, and have demonstrated a clear majority desire for independence.

Serbian abuses invalidate their sovereignty over Kosovo

Serbia performed numerous atrocities against the Kosovars in the war there in 1998 and 1999. This, and the recent denials of these atrocities, leads to the conclusion that the Serbians have foregone their any sovereign right over Kosovo. Whenever a government acts tyrannically towards a group of its people, its sovereignty over that people is put into question, and this is no exception.

Kosovo's clear ethnic Albanian majority validates independence| Kosovo's clear ethnic Albanian majority validates independence

Kosovo’s population is roughly 90% ethnic Albanian. This in itself makes it clear that Kosovo stands distinctly apart from Serbia.

Kosovo independence will formalize its existing autonomy

Kosovo already acts with a large degree of autonomy. Independence would mainly formalize this autonomy, and would not be a dramatic shift from the status quo.

There is no clear Kosovo identity warranting independence

Kosovas does not exactly have a coherent national identity. Yet, its Albanian population is coherent and nationalistic, the Serbian Kosovars in the north generally oppose independence, and do not identify with the Kosovo Albanian desire for independence. This means that it is not quite proper to claim that there is a clear national identity in Kosovo that warrants independence; there is plenty division and opposition to independence.

Kosovo is an historic part of Serbia that should not grow independent

Yevgeny Primakov, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, "Three Arguments Against Kosovo Independence", Serbian News Network, 2/19/07

“Kosovo and Metohia are considered to be the Serbs’ native and ancestral land, a land where their civilization, culture and identity evolved. The Serbian Constitution, recently adopted in a nationwide referendum, calls Kosovo an inalienable part of Serbia.”

Kosovo independence and international recognition would apply a double standard

Many break-away regions around the world, very similar to Kosovo, ahve declared independence but have not received international recognition. What makes Kosovo any different?

Serbia's abuses in Kosovo are exaggerated

Kosovar Albanians have terrorized ethnic Serbs in Kosovo

While it may be true that Serbians have abused Albanians in Kosovo, it may also be accurate that Kosovar Albanians have reciprocated abuse in kind. As such, Albanian Kosovars should have no special right to independence on the basis of Serbian abuses.

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