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KosovoA 21st century Balkan powder keg

Birth should be a happy event. But the declaration of a new state in Kosovo, which according to the United Nations is still part of Serbia, could spin dangerously out of control. Both the majority Kosovan Albanians and the ethnic Serb minority have become parties to 19th-century style Balkans manoeuvres, with Western Europe on one side and Russia and Serb nationalists on the other.

The actual fate of the people of Kosovo is almost certainly the last thing on the minds of the major powers and their allies. Kosovo remains like a prison for its inhabitants, whatever their ethnicity or religion. It has high rates of poverty, 50% unemployment and is plagued by power and water shortages. Animosities are fuelled on both sides by a toxic mix of economic underdevelopment, opportunist and corrupt local politics combined with big power arrogance riding roughshod over ethnicities and small nations.

The declaration of independence in the Kosovan parliament, prompted and encouraged by the United States, Britain and Germany, came despite the absence of an international agreement about the area’s future status and in the knowledge that Serbia regards Kosovo as the historic cradle of its own nationhood.

Kosova mapJanuary’s elections in Serbia undoubtedly helped push Kosovo’s parliament to its declaration. Serbia’s ultra-nationalist, right-wing Radical Party led by Tomislav Nikolic received 29% of the votes, the largest share of any group. Nikolic stated that Serbia should "cut all economic ties, transport, flow of capital, goods and people from Albanian-controlled parts of Kosovo. Their passports will not be valid here, so Kosovo Albanians will not be able to enter Serbia."

Far from “a triumph for intervention”, as the Independent on Sunday blithely claimed, the future is fraught. Russia is opposing Kosovan independence in the UN security council. Other nations like Spain have rejected the declaration by Kosovan prime minister Hashim Thaci, that “from this moment on, Kosovo is proud, independent and free”. Like Russia and China, Spain is concerned about the knock-on effects on would-be new states within its own borders.

NATO military strategists clearly expect trouble. The EU is sending a 2,000-strong “peace and justice” force and Britain will send 1,000 troops in addition to the 16,000 Kosovo-Force (K-For) already occupying the 4,170 square mile area of Kosovo. But the “peace-keeping” function of NATO is in fact a major contributor to the tensions in the area and, like in the past, will only exacerbate them.

Tito’s Democratic Federal Yugoslavia, formed in 1943 out of Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo, began to unravel in the 1990s as Stalinist regimes collapsed in Russia and eastern Europe. Today’s animosities arise directly from the misrule of Stalinist-turned nationalist Slobodan Milošević. Milošević hung on to power for 11 years after becoming leader of the Yugoslav Communist Party in 1989. He whipped up anti-Muslim and anti-Kosovan nationalism as the Yugoslav armed forces carried out brutal “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims. His reactionary politics prompted the civil wars in the region.

In response, separatists declared Kosovo a republic in 1991 and the Kosovo Liberation Army seized control of 40% of Kosovo itself in 1998. Serb forces retaliated, sparking off NATO air strikes in 1999. Serbia and its capital Belgrade were bombed for 98 days, ostensibly to save the Kosovans from persecution. But NATO had a second, hidden agenda: the destruction of the Yugoslav army, the chief military power in the Balkans, plus what remained of the socialist property relations set up under Tito. The political aim was to ensure the triumph of corporate capitalist rule – otherwise known as the “spreading of democracy”. And that remains the NATO/EU agenda in Kosovo today.

Corinna Lotz
AWTW secretary
19 February 2008

Robbie says:

A thorough history of Kosova can be read here: Kosova declares (semi-) independence

Katarina says:

Thanks for the blog. The Balkan area has been a powder keg for centuries because Western powers always decided our destiny, who we should go together with and no questions asked. The decision to proclaim independent Kosovo provoked ultra nationalism in Serbia, which is the worse outcome in any situation. Yes, my forefathers ran away from Kosovo as the Turks advanced and settled further in Serbia (or Croatia which was under Austro-Hungarian Empire. That is why there were so many Serbs in Croatia or in former Yugoslav Republic of Croatia. They settled under Maria Theresa of Austria who encouraged them to settle down there and be soldiers fighting Austrian enemies) .

As for the formation of Yugoslavia after WW II, FNRY (Federal National Republic of Yugoslavia) was proclaimed on 29. November 1945. Kosovo was a part of Serbia and so is Vojvodina to this day. Both have been autonomous regions of Serbia since 1945 . So, to single out Kosovo as you did was wrong and not to mention Slovenia is a miss. If you mention Kosovo then you have to mention Vojvodina, but both have been within Serbia, an integral part of it, just as Scotland is an integral part of U.K. As for Richard calling Serbian fascists, that really hurt. During both world wars and throughout our history, Serbs have always been fighting fascism and were never fascist, while they were surrounded by Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania - all fascist countries during WW II. Serbs demonstrated on the streets of Belgrade in 1941 with slogans: "Better War than Pact with Germany". That's why Germans bombed us in 1941 and destroyed Belgrade and thousands were killed. Is that fascism? Certainly not. Still, demonstrating against the German occupation did not help and they took over Serbia. Croats waved flags and smiled when Germans marched into Zagreb and welcomed them with open arms. They soon became fascist themselves and annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina. That's why I was taken to a Croatian concentration camp in 1941 at the age of 3, when a Croat soldier knocked at my parents' door and said : "You have five minutes to get out of the house in the name of the Independent state of Croatia." We would have certainly parished in the Camp if a deal was not struck between the German appointed Prime Minister of Serbia and German command whereby so many Serbs like us from Bosnia and Slovenes from Italian camps in Slovenia were freed and brought to Belgrade and exchanged for the Communist cells members in Serbia who were taken to Norway and kept in concentration camps there. Otherwise, I would not be alive today writing this to you.

Finally, I am against the formation of an independent Kosovo for many reasons, not just because this is contrary to the United Nations Resolution. Those who will rule in Kosovo should have been jailed as Milosevic was. The systematic murder of Serbis in Kosovo has been going on for years. The Serbs who escaped from Kosovo during WW II were not allowed to return to their homes after the War ended?!! On the other hand, Albanians from Albania were crossing the border and settling in Kosovo, having more than one wife, they soon became a majority with 15 kids in the family and Serbs had 1 or 2. On the other hand, we should be aiming at becoming European states, with many nations living together, that should be our future but American interests lie in building rocket launching sites in Kosovo in order to spy on Russia and they would support independent Kosovo for their own reasons and Britain is their lap dog, so you expect them to follow where USA leads. A sad state of affairs!

Fiona says:

Reunification is exactly what I was advocating, on a socialist-federalist basis. I do not see that that amounts to snobbishness, anarchist or otherwise. I also think that is would be a far more secure form of living than the creation of another state and it certainly does not prevent us from honouring the memory of the partisans. As for the EU, it is a neo-liberal creation that has done nothing so far for the other eastern European nations that have joined, in fact it has created just what had been feared - a two tier Europe, the eastern part of which acts as a reservoir of low paid labour for the richer half.

Richard says:

If you're living in a safe and secure country which has enjoyed peace with its neighbours for over sixty years, you have the luxury of deploring the creation of another nation state. However, if you've suffered from a decade of racist oppression followed by a carefully planned campaign of murder and "ethnic cleansing", you'd see things very differently...

Rather than acting as anarchist snobs, we should be congratulating the citizens of Kosova on achieving their national independence, honouring the memory of the UCK partisans who died fighting against Serbian fascism and looking forward to the reunification of the former states of Yugoslavia within the European Union.

Fiona says:

The last thing Europe, and the world as a whole, needs now is yet another nation-state to make its appearance, together with all the trappings of statehood. The desire of any oppressed people for national liberation and autonomy is perfectly understandable, but need it always take this form? Yet another national flag, (EU designed in this case) anthem and of course army, added to the ever growing total. On the other hand some kind of loose federation, or confederation of all those nations could I think be achievable there, and elsewhere. If, that is, some of the legacies of the Tito era were ditched while maintaining the kind of socialist property relations mentioned above. The era of the nation-state must surely draw to a close, it's beyond time.