Kosovo’s elected government is possibly the most enthusiastically pro-EU government in the world.
It has gladly accepted the limits on national sovereignty that co-operation with the EU implies.
The EU mission, when it is up and running, will have sweeping executive powers.
It will have the right to veto the elected government if it deviates from the Brussels-approved reform path. It will have the power to intervene directly in Kosovo’s internal affairs.
Some in Kosovo feel short-changed by this, though they remain a small minority. For now.
The political activist Albin Kurti has founded a movement for self-determination which rejects the coming EU settlement.
This, he says, is not the sovereignty that so many of the people of Kosovo fought and died for.
The EU will be running the show, he says, and the executive power will not be accountable to the people.
EU officials here play down the powers the EU will enjoy, insisting that in practice the buck will stop with the Kosovo government.
“Our executive power will be put in a box,” one official told me. “The box will be locked, it will be put in a safe and the safe will be locked.
“The EU mission’s executive power to intervene in Kosovo will be used only as a last resort.”
Defying International Law
The EU has a long track record exporting democracy.
In the 1980s it helped guide Spain, Portugal and Greece out of dictatorship.
It did the same, in the 1990s, for the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Kosovo is laying claim to a Western-leaning future
But what it is doing in Kosovo is quite different, and not least because it is being done in defiance of international law.
Kosovo’s Serbs – and Serbia itself – invoke UN Security Council Resolution 1244 which recognises Kosovo as a sovereign part of Serbia.
Russian opposition ensures that this resolution is not going to change any time soon.
But the EU is pressing on regardless, despite the further strain it will place on relations with Moscow.
At the independence concert, the Pristina Philharmonia will play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy – the anthem of the EU.
It will capture the prevalent mood here. It is Kosovo’s signal to the wider world: Kosovo’s way of staking claim to a European future.
And to the north, Serbia – surly, resentful, defeated – remains beholden to the myths of its past, un-reconciled to the condition to which it has been diminished in the space of 19 years. And looking to Moscow, not Europe, for salvation.
BBC 15th February 2008.
This assessment of Serbia seems odd coming two weeks after the pro-EU faction just won a national Serbian election. The BBC is wrong to say that Serbia is looking to Moscow for salvation. The election result shows quite clearly that Serbia is turning to the West.
It might not be wise of the EU rushing in and setting itself up as the new ruler of Kosovo, putting enormous pressure on the new pro-EU government in Belgrade. It is the attitude of the EU which is backwards-looking, seeing Serbia only in terms of its past, and not in terms of what it could become.
The Serbs have a long history of making the task of running Balkan empires extremely taxing for outside powers. Even the USSR allowed them to run Yugoslavia independently of Moscow.
Is this all about to become the EU’s version of Iraq with growing Russian-backed Serbian resistance? Or will the appeal of economic growth inside the EU be enough to gradually draw Serbia into the EU fold?
Why doesn’t the EU put the Kosovan independence issue into the long grass for now, and turn Serbia into a dynamic western-style economy first? It would be a far lower risk strategy.
As Bismarck (pictured) famously said, ‘The whole of the Balkans are not worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier.’ A generation later, it was the Balkans that triggered the First World War when Serbian nationalists assassinated Franz Ferdinand, the symbolic head of a previous empire that aspired to rule the Balkans, claiming millions of lives.
It’s always been an area where it pays to tread carefully. Keeping on the right side of the Serbs, and assisting them to find economic growth through peaceful democratic stability must be the key part of any sensible strategy, and the priority. The Kosovan venture is not a wise move for the EU to be taking.
From The Telelgraph February 15th 2008.
Few western countries escaped the vitriol. Europe was scolded for its “silly”, “immoral” and “illegal” backing of Kosovo’s imminent unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.
Although he did not elaborate, Mr Putin gave warning of retaliation once Kosovo broke away – a threat likely to chill Western leaders. “We have a ready-made plan and we know what we are going to do,” he said.
UPDATE – Serbian resistance begins. See HERE
RECENT REPORT FROM PRESEVO by Al Jazeera Barnaby Philips.