Sunday, February 17, 2008

Farewell Kosovo. Hello Kosova.

In the past few minutes I have read that the parliament in Priština has unanimously issued a declaration of Kosovo's independence from Serbia. The United States, Britain and a whole host of other countries around the world will now swiftly move to recognise the new republic. Moscow has given the news a slightly frostier reception and called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. The BBC website is describing the potential for violence as "enormous". At this stage it is still far too early to know whether we should rejoice or be distressed at the news from the Balkans.

Am I rejoicing? Well, I am not a nationalist so not really. When you start the ball rolling on permitting peoples occupying a territory which they consider distinct from the rest of the state on the basis of religion, history or ethnicity to secede from that state at what point do you actually draw the line? Do you draw the line at all? Perhaps these days in what some preposterously call 'post-nationalist Europe' (a Europe with possibly more independent nation states than it has ever had in its history) we support the stance of the 19th century Irish home ruler Charles Stewart Parnell: “No man has the right to fix the boundary of a nation. No man has the right to say to his country: 'Thus far shalt thou go and no further'.” This of course raises the other major question of what is that constitutes a nation and, more importantly, what do we do when another group of people object to that nationhood - such as with the Serbs in today's case. As we in Ireland can testify, independence can be a messy old business and the example of Kosovo does not make the subject any less muddled.

Europe has many unsettled territorial disputes. I wonder what is going through the minds of Basques today as they watch the jubilation in Priština? Surely they must yearn for such scenes someday on the boulevards of Bilbao. What must advocates of Catalan independence be thinking? Or what about the feelings of Scottish and Welsh nationalists? Can they now see their devolved administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff developing into full blown national parliaments? How, I wonder, do the supporters of Breton and Corsican separatism look at today's developments in eastern Europe? Beyond Europe there must be scores upon scores of other nationalist groups longing to take their place among the nations of earth alongside newly free Kosovo.

I believe Kosova (we might as well start using the Albanian spelling from this point on) has a right to be independent, if only because every other old constituent part of the former Yugoslavia ended up gaining their own right to statehood. To exclude Kosovans would be absurd given all that has happened in this region since the early 1990s. But I do sometimes wonder though whether there was another way, an alternative to all that has taken place over the past fifteen years. Or was the fragmentation of Yugoslavia simply inevitable? Were those tens of thousands of deaths really unavoidable? Could it not have been possible to hold together all of the various ethnic groups and avoid the vicious wars of the nineties under some kind of federal framework for the country? Please do not think for one second that I am claiming the old Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to be a fair model for how to run a country. It was far from it. Nor am I ignorant of that fact that many Croats and others were never content living under the Titoist system. Indeed it would have been redressing its total lack of democracy and federalism that I would have preferred to see happen rather than the option which was chosen - dissolution and war.

Take Spain for example. When the Franco regime was brought to an end in the mid seventies there were minorities within Spain with similarly valid claims to nationhood that had just come out of a similarly long period of dictatorship. The answer in this case was not the total dissolution of the Spanish state but instead the building of a democratic Spain. As idealistic as it may sound now how much better it would have been had Yugoslavia gone through its own Transición.

Nevertheless, the debate as to whether or not the horrifying conflicts in the Balkans in that final decade of the 20th century could have been avoided is now a futile one, of interest only to academics and students studying the history of the region. Today we witnessed the last piece in the jigsaw; the long protracted death of what was Yugoslavia has now ended.

The final irony may come when at some point in the future Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Slovenes, Macedonians and Kosovans all find themselves sitting together in brotherhood and unity - to borrow a phrase from Tito - within a new union. Not the union of Yugoslavia of course, but a strong, united and democratic European Union. It is the job of all progressives to argue in favour of that union and hasten its arrival.


Will said...

"...a strong, united and democratic European Union. It is the job of all progressives to argue in favour of that union and hasten its arrival."

Excellent. Well put. There is too many countries in the world already. Let us hasten the demise of the nation state and the conditions that make them necessary.

Anonymous said...

You forgot about the Montenegrans!

Jim Haughey said...

Interesting that you bring up Spain as that is one of the countries that are not recognising this unilateral declaration. Russia and China aren't playing ball either. There'll be others. Rightly so too. I agree with you that Yugoslavia should have remained one but imperialism wanted the total destruction of what was left of the socialist states in Eastern Europe. It was quite happy to look on as Croat and Serb cut the shit out of each other. I deeply disagree with you that Kosovo should get recognition. Why should it? Now anyone with the minimum claim to be independent can go ahead and get recognised by the USA and EU as long they promise to keep an eye on Russia, allow NATO bases in their territory and surrender to free market economics. Its a joke.

The New Centrist said...

Found out about your blog from a comment you left at "But I am a Liberal!"

Check out Marko Attila Hoare's blog, Greater Surbiton, for more info. on Kosovo:

"Kosova was crushed and oppressed by the Ottoman Empire; murderously invaded by the Serbian Army; repressed and colonised under the Yugoslav kingdom; dismembered by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy; and terrorised by the Communist police-state after World War II. It was partially emancipated in the late 1960s and 70s, only to see its autonomy brutally abrogated by Slobodan Milosevic, in an assualt that culminated in the attempted genocide of the late 1990s. Who would have thought before 1999 that the story would have a happy ending ? Who would have thought that when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, East Timor would one day be free ? This is a lesson, that no matter how bleak things may seem, justice and liberty may triumph in the long run. I have said before that the idea that Kosova’s independence will cause innumerable other ’separatist’ territories around the world to try to follow suit is a scaremongering myth. Still, I hope that the happy outcome will indeed inspire other enslaved nations not to give up hope: liberation may be just around the corner; you can’t keep a good nation down. Long live the freedom of the Chechens, Kurds, Taiwanese, Kashmiris, Darfurians ! Long live a free Palestine alongside a free Israel !"

And feel free to visit my blog as well. We are all fellow Eustonites.

Johnny Guitar said...

Will, thank you.

Anonymous, I apologise sincerely to the people of Montenegro.

New Centrist, thanks for the article and like your blog. Will link you ASAP.

Jim, I think we all know why some countries aren't "playing ball" so to speak. On the face of it China's objection to recognising Kosova seems fair enough. The Chinese say that they would have preferred Serbs and Kosovans to have reached an accommodation by dialogue. However, this is China talking. How a six decade one-party dictatorship with a penchant for massacring students and dissidents can lecture European nations on agreement and dialogue borders on hilarious. Also, don't forget Beijing's other little side disputes over Tibet and its 'renegade province' Taiwan. Spain too is only objecting because they fear recognising Kosova will give the Basques and the increasingly petulant Catalans big ideas. I think they'll come around in the end though. As for Russia, they have a more direct pro-Serb interest in this situation which we are all aware of.

Anonymous said...

More than four IIIyrian Entities compose Albania.
All of them speaks Illyrian language but with different dialects. Three first has a very distinct Illyrian dialect named GEGE and the rest has another Illyrian dialect named TOSKE.
On 1912 they united in one single state and agreed to be named Eagle’s Land. SHQIPERIA.
The foreign “SKOLARS” named Albania based on the name of only one of the Entities.
This was not only Ignorance but also a big mistake of these “very educated Scholars“.
The situation then was so critical for SHQIPETARET, so they accepted any injustice and compromise. This was the big price they pay to gain the independence. Of course many other Illyrian entities was ignored. This has been done in purpose to use Illyrian territories as a trade merchandise to please slavics, which in return were used in two wars. The Slavics paid their price. They lost 56 million people 1908 – 1946. Illyrian paid bigger price. They were spread over 5 different states.
It's about time to recognize the historical right of Kosova (Dardania) to have its destiny fulfilled-That is full independence. Kosova never was a Serbian province. It was there, since the times of birth of European civilization, a very distinct Dardanian/llyrian identity. Always populated by Dardanias who, although under constant pressure of forcefully migration by Serbian shovinism, Tito's Yugoslavia & Milloshevic's Serbia, still make up 92% of the population. They speak ilirian language with the dialect GEGE. Serbs always have been a minority there. We know that Serbs appeared in Balkans (then llyria) only by the 6th Century AD, and they speak a language more similar to Ukrainian then Russian. They have always been a minority and 'the story' of Kosova being the Heartland of Serbia is just a pure Serbian nationalist fantasy. Facts Speak Louder Than Words and Serbian’s Lies Will Collapse by Themselves. Serbs always have been considered as oppressors there, not just by Albanian majority, but also by other ethnic groups too. Serbs just occupied Kosova during the rise of the Serbian nationalism early 20th century from Ottomans, who by then were loosing the Balkans after 500 years of occupation. The borders of Kosova are well established and recognized. Now Kosova should be Free!
To find the answer for the question “do you think Kosovo’s independence will strengthen separatist movements elsewhere”, please refer to:
Erich Hartman – top ace of all the time. German Luftwaffe Bf 109 Pilot.
Near the end of WWII, in early May 1945, Hartmann, then Gruppenkommandeur of famous Jagdgeschwader 52, and his Commodore, Hermann Graf, ground crew, family members, and other civilians, who had joined the squadron, seeking protection approaching Russian army, moved west in direction of territory already occupied by US troops. On May 8th, 1945, the soldiers and civilians surrendered to US troops in the region between Bavaria (German province) and Czech border. But on May 17th, the US Army delivered all of these German troops and civilians to the Red Army. How did the Russian troops treat the civilians? They tortured, raped German woman, children at least 12 years old. Some woman were shot after the rapes. Others were not so lucky. A twelve year old girl whose mother had been raped and shoot being raped by several solders. She died from these acts soon afterward. Then more Russian came, and it began all over again. During the night, entire German families committed suicide with men killing their wives and daughters, then themselves. This is the way the slavics treat the human been, the innocent civilians. This is the way the Serbs treated innocent Croatian, Bosnian and Dardanian civilians. If any entity of human been will be treated like that, then they are in title to ask and gain the independence.