Kosovo Independence Declaration Imminent
It appears as if the nightmare scenario envisioned in 1992 of Kosovo declaring its independence and conceivably setting off a regional war is upon us.
A former rebel leader who has promised to declare Kosovo’s independence if mediation efforts fail declared victory for his party in a parliamentary election Saturday.
With most votes counted, opposition leader Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo led with 35%, according to an unofficial tally by Democracy in Action, a coalition of monitoring groups. The Democratic League of Kosovo, traditionally the province’s largest political bloc, trailed with 22%. Official results were expected Monday.
“Tonight the clock has turned. A new century has begun,” Thaci said. “Kosovo is ready to go forward on the road that will lead us closer to Kosovo independence.” After casting his ballot, Thaci said that if he became Kosovo’s prime minister he would declare independence from Serbia “immediately” after Dec. 10, the date international envoys must report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on efforts to resolve the dispute over the province’s future status.
Ethnic Albanians, who account for 90% of Kosovo’s population of 2 million, insist on independence, but Serbia has said it would never recognize a Kosovar state.
Two years of talks between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders and the Serbian government over the province’s status have resulted in little progress. The latest effort is being mediated by representatives from the U.S., Russia and the European Union.
Serbia has warned that unilateral moves that curb its sovereignty over the province, such as declaring independence, would endanger the region’s stability. Ethnic Albanians have grown skeptical as their leaders have failed to achieve independence from Serbia. The economy is a shambles, jobs are scarce and power outages are plentiful.
The EU-US-Russia troika sought to break the long impasse by having a three month round of discussions with a firm end date. The hope was that a deadline would create pressure to compromise. By all accounts, though, the Serbians and Kosovars are entrenched in their position.
An independence declaration would seem an all-but-certain outcome at this point. While not absolutely inconceivable that Thaci’s declaration here could increase the incentive for a compromise solution, it’s much more likely that it will merely exacerbate tensions. Further, it’s not at all clear what compromise solution would be acceptable to both sides.
The main question, then, presuming the independence declaration takes place next month, is What then? Do the Serbs have an appetite for another war to keep their ancient homeland together? Will NATO or another international organization allow that to happen? What of Albania proper?
Further, despite popular media portrayals, Kosovo isn’t at all an Albanian ethnic monolith. Will Serb-dominated northern Kosovo secede as they’ve long threatened?
via OTB News
Photo credit: AFP