The independence of Kosovo declared on 18th February, 2008, remains hitherto controversial question since it hasn’t been even recognised by all “developed” countries. In this connection particularly the possible legal precedent and subsequent efforts of other regions to gain independence (from political point of view) are being discussed. All the more it may seem that this issue divides the Balkans into a multiethnic, a multireligious and primarily a post-war one. That’s why one may ask rightly what this independence declaration can trigger off in the given region – whether it stops long-lasting conflicts, or if it might amount to the beginning of new ones.
Five months after the declaration of Kosovo’s independence it is obvious that from the short-term point of view the Balkans has kept its stability. This has been suggested even by the results of Serbian parliamentary elections held on 11th May, 2008. However, it’s evident that the stances of individual states on Kosovo’s recognition remain different: whereas Albania, Croatia, Slovenia and Bulgaria have recognised this “newest European state”, Macedonia and Montenegro adopted a more cautious posture on this matter and Serbia, Romania and Bosnia and Herzegovina reject the recognition. What’s actually the cause of such a development? The analysis attempts to elaborate on the attitudes of these Balkan countries to the declaration of Kosovo’s independence and their motivation in particular.
In the case of Serbia, which is affected immediately by the Kosovo issue, it’s no surprise that its representatives are very much against such a solution. In Serbia, the conflict originated and it’s interpreted as a question of national identity referring yet to the Battle of Kosovo from the 14th century. First regional unrests appeared as early as the 1960’s, i.e. in the period of former Yugoslavia when Kosovo’s underdevelopment manifested itself the most along with the growing birth rate of Albanian population. Nevertheless, the conflict escalated thirty years later when nationalism within the entire federation escalated to such an extent that it fell apart in the aftermath of several military conflicts, namely in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. It happened primarily under the influence of the then President Slobodan Milošević, who was the head of the state also in 1999 when a NATO military operation was carried out in Serbia. Ever since, Kosovo has been administered by the UN, which has created the UNMIK mission. The country’s political representatives emphasise that Kosovo is a territorial part of Serbia and its separation is unacceptable for Serbia: “Nations, which have recognised Kosovo, cannot count on good relations with Serbia,” said the then Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Vuk Jeremić (1). Serbia threatened with sanctions of political, diplomatic and economic character. Notwithstanding the government’s dissolution on 8th March, these were manifested in diplomatic ties with countries that recognised Kosovo’s independence. Ambassadors to these countries were recalled for consultations (for example, the US, Japan, Croatia and the Czech Republic) (2). The only more prominent parliamentary party, which has adopted a different stance on Kosovo, is the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In March, its chairman Čedomir Jovanović said in an interview: “Serbia lost its right to rule in Kosovo in 1999. … My message for the Serbs living in the north of Kosovo is that they should think of their future and the future of their families. This won’t change for better if Kosovska Mitrovica becomes Balkan Beirut. The new Serbian government should forget about phrases and myths and is supposed to start working along with the Albanians on new plans with international community’s assistance.” (3)
Public opinion in Serbia may seem surprising: according to a poll conducted by the Serbian television B92 in November just 7 per cent of the inhabitants of Serbia supported Kosovo’s independence and as many as 35 per cent were convinced that it wouldn’t be declared. Anyway, 36 per cent of respondents considered Kosovo’s integration into Serbia the best solution, solely 7 per cent believed that this would happen. Simultaneously, from the opinion poll emerged that the Kosovo question was solely the third most important for the Serbs – high unemployment rate took the first place (58 per cent of respondents) and low living standard ended second (48 per cent of respondents). The Kosovo question was labelled as the most important by 30 per cent of respondents – among them were predominantly the supporters of the socialists and Serbian Radical Party both of which are well know for their nationalist efforts. Nonetheless, it’s remarkable that EU membership didn’t rank among the first ten most crucial Serbian priorities (4).
One may draw the conclusion that there is a certain discrepancy between the opinions of political elite and the Serbian society in the country. Scepticism within the Kosovo question, however, didn’t spring out from pledges of the membership of prestigious political associations, but it’s rather the consequence of the country’s economic exhaustion.
Moreover, two significant events happened after Kosovo’s breakaway: on 30th April, 2008, President Tadić signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU and on 11th May, early parliamentary elections were held. In the final analysis, both these events are interconnected. According to opinion poll conducted in April 63 per cent of Serbs were for EU entry (although as many as 70 per cent disapproved of setting Kosov’s recognition as its condition) (5). Quick conclusion of the agreement, (which hasn’t been ratified by Serbian Parliament by now) yet prior to May elections was also in EU’s interest. The success was reflected right in the mentioned parliamentary elections in which the candidate list for European Serbia composed of Tadić’s Democratic Party (DS) and the party G17+ achieved unexpectedly as many as 39 per cent of votes, although Tomislav Nikolić’s Serbian Radical Party (SRS) was second with 28.5 per cent of votes (6).
At long last on 7th July, 2008, a coalition treaty among ten political subjects was signed. The most surprising is the alliance between President Tadić’s party and Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) which is headed by Ivica Dačić and hitherto connected mainly with the war era led by Slobodan Milošević. It was exactly this party which played key role in the formation of coalition because it could have formed an alliance with radicals as well. Finally, the fact that one of its constituents, namely United Serbia, backed the conclusion of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and its Chairperson Dragan Marković supported Boris Tadić in February presidential elections was of great moment. Apart from this, 245 out of 258 delegates upheld its entry into the coalition with DS at the last party assembly declaring thus the effort to focus also on new and younger voters and shape itself as a socialist party based on democratic values. The government headed by Mirko Cvetković is likely to face several problems, for instance, the question of collaboration with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia which is a prerequisite for the granting of EU candidate country status. Nevertheless, if it really aims at reforms in the country and the effort to approach the EU it will have the potential to be successful. It’s important that also as regards the Kosovo question the government could adopt more moderate stances than Vojislav Koštunića from Democratic Party of Serbia, which is now in the Opposition together with Radical Party, used to in the past. Bogdan Goranović, who has a close relation with the leader of moderate Kosovo Serbs Oliver Ivanović, has become the Minister for Kosovo (7). Obviously, the official attitude presented in PM Cvetković’s speech is clear: “The coalition will never recognise Kosovo’s independence and will make all legal and diplomatic steps so that Kosovo remains a part of Serbia. It will at the same time initiate the repeated launch of negotiations with the representatives of Kosovo Albanians so that mutually acceptable solutions are sought jointly.” (8) Despite this, the development in Serbia implies that nationalism has been fading into the background and the country starts gradually to be open to European perspectives.
The case of this small country with 600,000 thousand inhabitants is specific because it used to be a part of the former Yugoslavia and, moreover, it formed a state union with Serbia till 2006. It separated as the last one from among the states of former Yugoslavia only two years ago, not at the beginning of 1990’s like other Yugoslav sates. In connection with Kosovo it’s conceivable to compare the process of becoming independent also in view of Serbian stances. The main difference in comparison with Kosovo is the fact that Montenegro existed as an independent republic in former Yugoslavia while Kosovo was an autonomous province, i.e. without the right to establish an independent state. Furthermore, yet in 1910 the Kingdom of Montenegro originated. It became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians and, eight years later, it was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Therefore the case of Montenegro’s separation was in contrast to Kosovo a matter of geopolitical questions, for example, the access to sea lost by the Serbs, rather than a matter of ethnic identity or a legal precedent. Montenegro had the possibility to ask the so-called Badinter Commission comprised of the representatives of European communities’ states for independence recognition yet in 1992 like all states of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Instead of this, along with Serbia it handed in the application for staying in the federation in February. This was confirmed also in the referendum on Montenegro’s independence in March in which 95 per cent of participants voted for staying in the federation although several groups of population boycotted the referendum because according to them it was held under non-democratic conditions and under the influence of media propaganda. However, the country was more and more plagued by the pressure of international sanctions (particularly on President Slobodan Milošević’s Government) which triggered the process of becoming independent in 1997. It was rather similar to the process which occurred at the beginning of the 1990’s the result of which was the separation of three states although, as we have already mentioned, in this situation it was primarily a political conflict and not an ethnic one. The result of this diversion from federation’s stances was also the fact that during the NATO military intervention in 1999 Montenegro was affected considerably less than Serbia.
Even Milošević’s substitution by Vojislav Koštunica didn’t change the course towards independence. Further step was the origin of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2002. This model, not the independence, was upheld also by the EU. Since the opinion of the inhabitants of Montenegro was rather ambiguous, independence could have instigated nationalism in Serbia and cause a domino effect by spurring struggle for independence in other parts of the Balkans (Kosovo, Republika Srpska, and Bosnia) too. Efficient functioning of this union, however, was impossible, for instance, owing to the existence of two currencies and central banks. Therefore also international institutions began to approach the union’s constituents separately. As referendum requirements (55 per cent of votes in favour of independence in contrast to ordinary 50 per cent) were more advantageous for the union and both states approved of it, in the end Serbia was also forced to accept the result, namely the major support of independence (9).
It’s at the same time possible to compare the development of ethnic composition of the population in Montenegro and Kosovo. The ethnic structure of Montenegro was and is very heterogeneous. In 1909, out of 317,000 inhabitants of Montenegro the Serbs accounted for 95 per cent, nobody avowed to be of Montenegrin nationality and the rest was comprised by the Albanians. Ethnicity was in this case assessed on the basis of mother tongue. That time independent Montenegrin language wasn’t codified yet and also nowadays there are only minimal differences between the two languages. According to data of the 1948 census in the Republic of Montenegro, as a part of socialist Yugoslavia, there were 377,000 inhabitants out of which the Serbs amounted solely to 1.67 per cent, the Montenegrins 90.67 per cent, the Albanians 5.15 per cent and the Croatians 1.8 per cent. The Yugoslavs living predominantly in border regions have been appearing in statistics since 1953 accounting for 1.53 per cent. Muslims comprised 6.5 per cent in 1961. Thus along with the members of Montenegrin nationality also people avowing to be of Serbian nationality appeared, though their number as well as proportion was sinking. In 1981, the Albanians and Muslims constituted 19 per cent of inhabitants in this territory. Even comparing the last two censuses in 1991 and 2003 the results are relatively surprising. Whereas in the first case the country was inhabited by approximately 9 per cent of the Serbs and 61 per cent of the Montenegrins, 14 per cent of the Muslims and 6 per cent of the Albanians, in 2003 there was triple the amount of the Serbs (30 per cent), the number of the Montenegrins was lower by one third (40 per cent), the Bosnians amounted to 9 per cent, the Muslims 4 per cent and the Albanians 7 per cent.
This heterogeneousness of ethnic structure is extremely apparent in border regions near Serbia and Albania. Here the inhabitants, often of the same ethnic origin, identify themselves rather according to religious affiliation due to the political situation. For example, in the census carried out after World War II the Serbian population professing Islam subscribed to the Serbs, Montenegrins, Turks, Muslims and Yugoslavs, however, in 1981 and 1991 they subscribed exclusively to the Muslims. It’s a very specific example of nation division according to ideology and religious conviction. In other parts of the world it is mainly the ethnicity which occupies the foreground as an affiliation factor (10).
Also in the case of Kosovo the changes of ethnic structure were under way predominantly in the 20th century in the aftermath of the growing birth rate of the Kosovo Albanians and the moving of Serbs to more developed parts of the country. Nowadays, Kosovo’s ethnic composition is in comparison with Montenegro much more homogenous. The Kosovo Albanians, who in contrast to the Montenegro speak other language and profess other religion, represent as many as 90 per cent of inhabitants.
Based on these differences Montenegro isn’t obliged to support Kosovo’s independence. The situation in Pristina isn’t parallel to those one which Podgorica was in until recently. On the contrary, as the results of the 2006 referendum have already implied, many inhabitants of Montenegro underscore their Serbian identity, however, the quest for good relations with Serbia even more. Because another factor is that this newly established country is very small as for area as well as the number of inhabitants, it’s more than obvious that it has decided to wait and act neutrally as regards the Kosovo question: “A hasty decision in regard with this question would be at variance with our interest to preserve harmony in ethnic relations, which are the basis of the international stability of Montenegro,” said the President of Montenegro Filip Vujanović (11). It means that Kosovo’s recognition isn’t ruled out completely in this case, however, it will be to a large extent dependent on Serbian stances on this question.
In the case of Albania the reaction to the declaration of Kosovo’s independence wasn’t unexpected at all and was the completely opposite to that of Serbia. In this connection the Albanians use several arguments in favour of Kosovo’s recognition. The existence of both states inhabited by the same ethnic minorities (Albania and Kosovo), which stirs up fear of possible efforts to create joint great Albanian state in Serbia as well as in a part of Macedonian society, is compared with Romania and Moldova the sovereignty of which isn’t disputed by anybody. One has to point out, however, that as early as 17th May, 2008, Movement for Unification was established in Kosovo the goal of which was the unification of all Balkan territories. Its chairperson was Avni Klinaku, the co-founder of National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo which became a part of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) later (11). Of course, these movement’s objectives aren’t in accordance with the officially declared interests of Kosovo and other states involved. The statement of the Prime Ministers of Albania and Kosovo Sali Berisha and Hashim Thaçi from 1st July, 2008, attest to it (12).
Paradoxically, some commentaries have presented the opinion that for Serbia it’s better when economically underdeveloped Kosovo won’t be a part of its territory any longer – also because it will be able to devote itself to the solution to real and topical problems. The commentaries also defend the above-standard involvement of the US and the EU – since it’s the territory of Europe and potential EU members (13). Albania was even among the first three states to recognise Kosovo’s independence (together with Afghanistan and Turkey) (14).
Anyway, according to an opinion poll conducted in 2004 the Albanians stand for a population which approves of EU membership the most in terms of the region. As many as 72 per cent would vote for EU membership and only 2 per cent against. They believe that the living standard in the country would rise and the working conditions in other EU states would improve (15). In addition, in a 2007 poll conducted by the UNDP also the Kosovo Albanians confirmed that they considered autonomy and independence the best solution for Kosovo – 95 per cent of questioned said so. Only 3.5 per cent of respondents spoke up for the unification with Albania (16). This doesn’t necessarily mean that these preferences won’t change in course of the time. Also in the case of “Great Albania” the number of its inhabitants wouldn’t exceed six million, which is still less than, for instance, the amount of the Serbs. The pro-European aspirations of Albania and Kosovo are likely to be decisive here. However, the unification wouldn’t be very probable according to them.
The fact that Croatia recognised officially the independence of Kosovo has been known since 19th March, 2008. Considering the fact that this happened not until a month after the declaration, one could assume that struggle for the provocation of Serbia wasn’t behind this decision not to speak of the effort to worsen mutual relations – although it remains a question to what extent Croatia’s decision was influenced by the opposite possibility, i.e. the fear of Serbian reaction. Official reports released already one day after the declaration said that top country’s representatives, President Stjepan Mesić and PM Ivo Sanader, concurred that Croatia would decide in accordance with EU countries’ decision as regards this question. The government’s statement contained: “It’s been agreed on that in accordance with constitutional authorities Croatia will carry on monitoring and analysing the development of the situation, in view of the interests of the Republic of Croatia as a country in the process of European Union accession, it will reconcile its decisions with the objectives of joint EU foreign and security policy and the stances of other countries involved in Euroatlantic cooperation.” (17) Such a stance was indisputably conditioned also by the oncoming vote on Croatian membership of NATO at the Bucharest Summit at the beginning of April 2008.
However, such a stance wasn’t unequivocal on domestic political scene. The Vice Chairperson of Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS) Milorad Pupovac declared that in the case of Kosovo’s recognition, this party would weigh up its participation in ruling coalition. The coalition survived in the end (18).
Generally, Croatian attitude reminds of the recent development in Slovakia in connection with the dispatch of troops to Iraqi conflict in 2003 shortly before NATO and EU entry. That time the public refused such a decision and the Slovak Republic wasn’t even forced to get involved by EU membership conditions – also owing to the fact that no common EU stance on this matter existed. Notwithstanding this, the government decided to “give a positive signal”. It’s positive that in the case of Croatia no nationalistic emotions were involved in the decision-making process, although it couldn’t have been regarded as something of an oddity when considering the recent military conflict with the Serbs in 1995. The ambitions to become a member of prominent international structures were decisive.
This country was a part of former Yugoslavia too. It gained independence as first 17 years ago in a relatively peaceful way (after a ten day war). That time the Slovenian Opposition to communist regime backed the requirements of the Kosovo Albanians concerning the growing ethnic tension from the end of the 1980’s, when the Serbian Skupština (the Parliament) passed constitutional amendments in 1989 which restricted formally, however, abolished de facto the political autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina. In September 1991, the Provincial Parliament of Kosovo adopted the declaration on the establishment of the independent Republic of Kosovo within Yugoslavia. That time the first mass protest organisation against the regime had already existed in Slovenia, namely the Human Rights Protection Committee. It was entered by approximately hundred thousand people. The origin of this committee was the reaction to the arrest of Janez Janša, who is the Slovenian Prime Minister at present. That time Janša published critical articles aimed against Yugoslav People’s Army which had been untouchable since Tito’s era. “The heedlessly developing movement against the regime in Slovenia highlighted the democratic program and it even shaped up in exclusively national vein. The Slovenian society intimidated by nationalist wave in Serbia identified itself with nationally tinged slogans like never before. …Equally purpose-oriented was also the support which the Slovenian Opposition showed to the legitimate resistance of Albanian ethnic minority to the abolishment of Kosovo’s autonomy – as a tool for the pushing through of own requirements.” (19) Former Slovenian President Milan Kučan, who was the head of the country in the period when it became independent of Yugoslavia, regards the support of the declaration of Kosovo’s independence in 2008 as a mistake: “The recognition of Kosovo’s independence hasn’t solved the instability in the Balkans, to the contrary, it has deepened it. Moreover, the principle of the unilaterally declared change of borders has been violated.” (20)
The status of Slovenia in the period of Kosovo’s independence declaration was specific again: Slovenia took up EU presidency right in the first half of 2008 as the first state from twelve new member states. For Ljubljana this is by no means a simple position in view of Kosovo: On the one hand there are strong economic ties with Serbia and nostalgic memories of the existence within common state. Furthermore, not all member states (including Slovakia) recognise Kosovo’s independence, thus it seems that each country makes its choice independently. The recognition isn’t just a formal act. Since EU mission is supposed to substitute gradually UNMIK forces, it will mean the dispatch of Slovenian police troops to Kosovo as well. On the other hand Slovenian presidency is advantageous due to the knowledge of the region. Moreover, it’s in Slovenian interest that neighbouring states (including Serbia and Kosovo) become EU members too and that the prosperity of the region is developed (21). Yet in October 2007, the Slovenian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmitry Rupel stated at a meeting with his Serbian counterpart that Slovenia wouldn’t make any unilateral decision as for Kosovo and Metohija, but it would reconcile its stance with the stance of the EU, which, as he reassured, was sure to be uniform. In January, however, information from the December meeting of Slovenian and US representatives leaked out causing disappointment even in the EU: “The public just couldn’t fail to notice the clearly determined agenda which was contained in the report as well as Slovenian role in putting it into practice” (22). One of these tasks immediately after independence declaration (as it was assumed that the solution of final Kosovo status would be achieved exactly in this period) was to push through within the EU a rapid dispatch of European Security and Defence Policy mission replacing UN mission so that the influence of Russia and Serbia on the situation in Kosovo was weakened. The Slovenians also learned that the Americans had been preparing along with the Kosovo Albanians the text of Kosovo’s constitution.
Although such acting was condemned also by Slovenian public, the animosity towards Kosovo’s independence (now ignoring the fears of damaged relations with Serbia) is not thus much visible here. In 1999, as many as 70 per cent of Slovenian citizens agreed with NATO air raids on Serbia. Slovenia was the first country in the region to open its air space for NATO air force. This step was approved of by 60 per cent of citizens, i.e. more than in other countries the governments of which adopted similar decision (23).
Slovenian stance on this matter is thus quite clear. Slovenia expressed it. like in the case of the dissolution of Yugoslavia and own independence requirements, as the first country that used to be a part of Yugoslavia. The only disputable thing is its influence on the development of the situation in Kosovo. Nonetheless, it’s certain that “Slovenia won’t solve the Kosovo crisis on its own, but the symbolism of its presidency is of great moment and also well timed. The visible asymmetry of Slovenian success is a strong reminder of Serbian and Kosovo nationalism and ethnic isolation.” (24)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
As for the stance on Kosovo, Bosnia is the very opposite pole of Slovenia. The situation in Bosnia has been rather complicated since the conclusion of the Daytona Agreement in 1995 which ended the war in this territory. Paradoxically, a certain analogy to Kosovo is the fact that also Bosnia may be still perceived as an international protectorate which is in view of its multiethnic and multireligious composition in a more complicated position than Kosovo. It’s composed of two entities, namely the Bosnian-Croatian Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the autonomous Republika Srpska (RS). The High Representative of the International Community and the EU Special Envoy is vested with important authorities. At present, this position is held by the Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajčák. Stability in Bosnia is fragile particularly due to the efforts of both entities to maximise their advantages. In this way one can perceive the fact that the biggest Serbian political party in Bosnia (Union of Independent Social Democrats), which also the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska comes from, pushed through successfully the adoption of the declaration concerning “the weighing up of referendum on the separation of Bosnia if the unilateral declaration of south Serbian province Kosovo will be recognised by more states.” Obviously, there’s a fundamental difference: the international community would never recognise such a unilateral declaration. Therefore this step is considered a political manoeuvre of the representatives of Republika Srpska rather than a real threat (25).
It’s at the same time almost sure that if such a referendum was held, the Bosnian Serbs would back the independence: according to an opinion poll conducted in November 2007 as many as 77 per cent of Bosnian Serbs were convinced that if Kosovo declared independence, RS should have declared independence too (26). This was finally reflected at least in the official posture of Bosnia on Kosovo’s independence: according to the Croatian Želkjo Komšić, a member of the country’s collective presidium and the representative of social democrats, Bosnia cannot recognise independent Kosovo as a state if one third of its population doesn’t wish so – irrespective of the fact whether it’s a correct decision or not.
Bosnia was the last country of the region to sign the EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement (Serbia did so in 2008). An earlier agreement conclusion was prevented by slow progress in police reformation. That’s why the largest concerns as regards Kosovo were linked with possible impact on the country’s arrangement, although they weren’t confirmed from the short-term point of view.
Macedonia is among those states which haven’t recognised Kosovo’s independence so far. Numerous Albanian minority has been living in its territory comprising 25 per cent of the country’s population. Particularly two parties representing the interests of Albanian minority, namely Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) and National Democratic Party (NDP), have a clear attitude to the question of Kosovo’s independence. They are parties which have been in the opposition since 1998 and lack the voter’s support (1-2 per cent), however, they don’t differ from larger Albanian parties very much. In 2008, PDP merged with Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA). Although the former was founded as early as 1990, in the case of the latter many commanders of Albanian rebel troops from the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) working in Macedonia became its members following the end of the conflict in 2001.
They speak up for respecting the will of Kosovo population which was expressed in the 1991 referendum on the recognition of Kosovo’s independence. These parties confess overtly that the dissolution of Yugoslavia contributed also to the disintegration of Albanian population in three states and Albania is the only country in Europe which is surrounded by minorities of its own ethnicity in neighbouring countries. Albanian political parties in Macedonia perceive the concerns of majority population over the establishment of the great Albanian state unfounded. Their declared objective is the coming together of Albanian communities via European integration which enables an unlimited movement of persons. This objective is achievable only if future Macedonians and Albanians collaborate (27). For Macedonia this perspective remains questionable also owing to other reasons: although it signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, which precedes the candidate country status, as early as 2001 at April NATO summit it was denied the membership in this security alliance mainly because of Greece’s objections (which is, of course, EU member as well) to the name of the country.
In Macedonia, public opinion as for the Kosovo question is inclined towards the non-recognition of its sovereignty. In an opinion poll conducted at the beginning of March 45 per cent of inhabitants voted against the recognition, whereas 35 per cent of inhabitants, mainly from the Albanian community living in Macedonia, voted in favour. Concurrently, it doesn’t seem that they regard Kosovo’s recognition as a security threat for their country: 28 per cent of respondents said that the security situation would improve, 25 per cent expressed opposite opinion and 25 per cent were convinced that the situation would remain unchanged (28).
The Macedonian Government still hasn’t expressed itself with regard to Kosovo recognition. It emphasises that it keeps on watching thoroughly the development in this region and will act according to other states of the international community (EU). Like in the case of some other Balkan countries (Croatia, Montenegro), the fears of the growing influence of the Albanians are associated with cautiousness for the sake of possible economic sanctions from Serbian side, no matter if indirect ones. Although being considered by the Albanians solely a “technical problem”, the question of borders with Kosovo (that is set by a part of the Opposition as a condition of Kosovo recognition) has remained unsolved for a quite long time as well. The problem related to the village Tunaševci 20 km away from the capital Skopje where the Macedonian conflict broke out in 2001. Albanian Commander Xhezair Shakiri, aka “Commander Hoxha”, took control of the town and declared the integration of the village into Kosovo (29). Macedonia and Kosovo signed a demarcation protocol on 19th April, 2008, according to which common borders will be defined in accordance with Martti Ahtisaari’s plan. The process of border demarcation should come to an end in one year’s time (30).
Nevertheless, as the representatives of one of the ruling parties, the already mentioned DSA, remind, in the case of Macedonia the problem doesn’t consist in the question if it recognises Kosovo, but when this will happen and if it won’t be among the last states to do so (31). This stance will be most probably pushed through also after June parliamentary elections in which the ruling coalition attained a clear victory when the coalition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity VMRO-DPMN obtained more than 48 per cent of votes. Anyway, the election campaign was accompanied by unrests in the course of which one man died and several people were injured. The unrests were under way in the territory inhabited by Albanian minority. US Ambassador in Macedonia Robert Barry said that the government used to fail in investigating campaign attacks and that the elections didn’t meet the standards of OSCE and the Council of Europe. That’s why new elections were held in 93 districts on 15th June, 2008.
In any case, PM Nikola Gruevski will have to invite also one of the two largest Albanian parties to the coalition. Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) has a little bit higher support among the Albanians, namely 11 per cent, however, it’s considered the successor to the radical Macedonian KLA which fought against the government in 2001. That time the US labelled it as extremist. It forged close links with Kosovo Liberation Army led by the current Prime Minister of Kosovo and the Chairperson of Democratic Party of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi. Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA) act in a less confrontational way and in 2006 the coalition VMRO-DPMN preferred it to DUI which acquired more votes that time. DPA’s departure from the ruling coalition caused the calling of early elections, which was connected also with the omission of Macedonia from negotiations about NATO membership at the NATO Summit in Bucharest as well as a dispute over the country’s name. The relations between both Albanian parties are tense. The more radical DUI accuses DPA besides other things also of the recent attack on the politician Ali Ahmeti during the election campaign. Therefore the political atmosphere in the country is rather tense also regardless of the declaration of Kosovo’s independence.
Bulgaria and Romania
In contrast to previous countries, these two ones are from the geographical viewpoint a part of the Eastern Balkans and simultaneously EU member states. Bulgaria did recognise Kosovo after a complicated decision-making process along with Croatia and Hungary on 19th March, 2008. Yet on the very same day of the declaration of Kosovo’s independence, the Bulgarian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivajlo Kalfin warned that “the declaration of Kosovo’s independence endangers the stability of the Balkans and may stir up a new wave of violence” (33). Bulgaria is afraid of the breakout of another “frozen conflict” exactly in this region. That’s why according to an opinion poll as many as two thirds of Bulgarians didn’t understand in fact what the stance of the Bulgarian government on this question was like. Bulgaria is perhaps the only country which could decide freely without endangering its own interests because it is an EU member and enjoys relatively conflict-free relations with Turkish minority living in the north.
As for Romania, the Foreign Affairs Minister Andrian Cioroianu stated yet in January 2008 at a meeting with Serbian partner Vuk Jeremić that from the point of view of Romania, such a solution to the situation in Kosovo was acceptable which respects the valid principles of international law. He declared that Romania wouldn’t recognise Kosovo’s independence if these principles were violated. He said concurrently that Romania was supportive of European mission in Kosovo, which was supposed to precede the independence declaration (34). This country’s position was confirmed also by Romanian President Traian Basescu, who claimed during his visit to NATO seat in Bucharest at the beginning of July 2008 that Romania wouldn’t join such a process which implied Kosovo’s independence by establishing particular institutions (judiciary), or rather, it would join it only if this process was under way in accordance with UN resolution 1244 (35).
These clear stances are determined by the situation in a country in which out of 22 million inhabitants 1.5 million are of Hungarian nationality. Their political parties gained 6.2 per cent of votes in last elections. Thus they’re represented in the Parliament. Through their statements, the political leaders of these parties often underestimate concerns over their intentions: “The independence of Kosovo is a precedent which should be followed by ethnic minorities in every EU country,” said Béla Markó, the Chairperson of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). Among UMDR’s requirements is, for example, the removal of the concept “united country” from the constitution, the improvement of education possibilities for the members of ethnic minorities and the return of church property confiscated in 1918. The more radical Union of Hungarian Citizens, which broke away from UDMR in 2004, pursues closer relations with Hungary and demands autonomy for the region Sikulov (Székely) in eastern Transylvania. Transylvania used to be a part of Hungary. After its dissolution, it was attached to Romania in the aftermath of the Trianon Peace Treaty in 1920. The Sikulov region had an autonomous status in the period 1952-1968. Even that time the region didn’t vary in authority from other sixteen regions governed by the central government. The difference consisted in the fact that most of the region’s representatives were of Hungarian nationality, the Hungarian language was an official one and public buildings were marked also by Hungarian symbols. In 1953, the Hungarian Public Union, which acted as a satellite political party in terms of the power monopoly of Romanian Communist Party, disbanded. In 1968, the whole territorial division of Romania changed. The county was administratively divided into ethnically unidentifiable counties (judets). This division has remained valid up to now. Today, in the Sikulov region, i.e. in the counties Mureş, Harghita and Covasna, 700,000 people have been living. In some towns, as many as 90 per cent people speak Hungarian (36). The mentioned precedent could cause trouble also in neighbouring Moldavia, which used to be a part of Romania and also the USSR in the past, because the unrecognised Transnistrian Moldovan Republic is in quest for independence. It’s a frozen conflict, however, relations between Romania and Moldova are relatively tense.
Thus Romania, similarly to Slovakia, justifies its decision not to recognise Kosovo by means of a claim to the respect for valid international right. The fears of possible demands of Hungarian minority in its territory are behind this claim. It seems that this posture won’t be changed for the foreseeable future, although this country doesn’t influence immediately the situation in Kosovo. The decision is conditioned by internal political factors rather than the development in Kosovo itself.
Apparently the stance of each of these Balkan states seems to be an individual story motivated by various interests and concerns. While in Croatia struggles for the fastest possible integration into Euroatlantic structures have been prevailing, Macedonia is marked by irresolution connected with concerns over economic restrictions from Serbian side. These concerns impinged upon the decision-making process in several states. The numerous Albanian minority in Macedonia is an important factor as well. Montenegro’s position is also complicated since this small state wants to maintain good links with Serbia, however, it is at the same time in pursuit of EU integration. In Bosnia, the stances of some political representatives have been radicalised probably the most. It’s the result of the persistently complicated mechanism of state administration. Perhaps the only common and indisputably positive moment is that no strengthening nationalism appears among the primary political arguments. On the contrary, the quest for stability and the region’s integration has taken centre stage.
On EU’s initiative in 1999 the Stabilisation Pact for South-Eastern Europe was adopted in Cologne together with the adoption of UN resolution 1244 thanks to which Kosovo got under UN administration. It amounted to the reaction to the bilateral character of problem solution to Balkan countries and simultaneously an effort to force them to search for joint solutions to diverse problems. It also served as an example of cooperation in the Balkans. At the beginning, some countries (Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania) refused to join this process owing to the concern that it could have enfeebled their position of more advanced membership candidates for Euroatlantic groupings. Concurrently, they feared that the mentioned pact was understood as the possible refusal of membership from the side of the EU and the creation of an “alternative” organisation. In reality, they have become the leaders in the region’s democratisation.
The Stabilisation Pact handled three problem spheres:
a) democratisation and human rights: the reinforcement of media freedom, the support of civil society;
b) economic restoration, development and cooperation: power engineering issues, infrastructure, free trade agreements;
c) security problems: fight against organised crime, corruption, terrorism, cross-border environmental issues etc.
The success of this cooperation is, for instance, the treaty on free trade between the involved states which was joined even by Kosovo via UNMIK or the memorandum on understanding in the field of education from 2007 which Balkan countries consider a priority. The Stabilisation Pact was substituted by the Regional Cooperation Council in February 2008. The seat moved from Brussels to Sarajevo. It was taken as a proof of the main objective of the transformation, namely the assumption of more powers and competences within own Balkan affairs (37).
That’s why one may conclude in the end that despite manifold stances of Balkan countries on the declaration of Kosovo’s independence, there was no destabilisation of the region from the short-term point of view. Although in some regions, particularly in Bosnia, the potential for such a situation still exists, there is also an equally big room for cooperation either on bilateral level or in terms of joint decision-making as well as common course towards integration among developed democratic countries.
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