Kosovo Declares Independence From Serbia (Updated)
As has been anticipated for some time, Kosovo has declared its independence from Serbia.
The breakaway province of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Sunday, sending tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians swarming through the streets to celebrate what they hoped was the end of a long and bloody struggle for national self-determination.
Kosovo’s intent to be recognized as Europe’s newest country — after a civil war that killed 10,000 people a decade ago and then years of limbo under United Nations rule — was the latest episode in the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia, 17 years after its dissolution began.
It brings to a climax a showdown between the West, which argues that Serbia’s brutal subjugation of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority cost it any right to rule the territory, and the Serbian government and its allies in the Kremlin, which counter that Kosovo’s independence is a reckless breach of international law that will spur other secessionist movements across the world.
In declaring independence in Parliament, Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, a former leader of the guerrilla force that just over 10 years ago began an armed rebellion against Serbian domination, struck a note of reconciliation. Addressing Parliament in both Albanian and Serbian, he pledged to protect the rights of the Serbian minority.
“I feel the heartbeat of our ancestors,” he said, paying tribute to Kosovo’s war dead and to the European Union and the United States. “We, the leaders of our people, democratically elected, through this declaration proclaim Kosovo an independent and sovereign state.”
In 1992, those of us who opposed American military intervention in the Yugoslav wars cited this eventuality as a caveat. If Kosovo broke off, it threatened a massive regional war. Over time, though, the actors got used to the idea of the inevitability of this move and it’s now mostly of interest to European specialists.
Will Serbia and Russia nonetheless be annoyed? You bet. A further splintering of multi-ethnic Kosovo itself? Quite possibly. Will this lead to diplomatic retaliation and the recognition of Abkhazia? Maybe.
World War III? Not likely.
Update (Dave Schuler): Ancient Dardania, the region now known as Kosovo, has been a focus of Serbian nationalism for the last nine hundred years, since the Turks invaded. I doubt we’ve heard the end of this.
Now I’ll have to dig out my copy of the epic ballads surrounding the Battle of Kosovo. I haven’t looked at it in 30 years but it’s around here somewhere.
Update (James Joyner): Prediction 1, check: Russia Denounces Kosovo Declaration.
Okay, so that one was easy.