Sunday, 24 February 2008

Independence Day?

Last weekend saw the declaration of independence by Kosovo (or Kosova, depending on where you learned your Albanian). It has pulled into focus major divisions across the globe and even within Europe as to whether Kosovo is entitled to this independence. On the one hand, we have countries like China, Russia, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and others who are categorically against sovereignty for Kosovo. On the other hand, we have everyone else.

One thing is clear about this situation; it is not an easy problem. Although, what is making it more difficult is the shifting of national political positions from where they were just a few years ago when the majority of nations were united against Slobodan Milosevic's uber-nationalistic activities in the Balkans. So what has changed? Well, nothing really, except that the anti-independence (or anti-interventionist) self-interest module has kicked back into action. All of the countries mentioned above see Kosovo as some sort of precedent, whereby its independence will be seen as a green light to other groups in their search for sovereignty. I'm referring here to Northern Cyprus, Tibet, the Basque Country and any number of satellite Russian states.

The truth is, of course, that Kosovo is no precedent (as Martin Kettle in the Guardian highlights). Why is it that we can easily see how right it is to have independence in places like Ireland (yes, that one next door), East Timor, Solvenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere, but have somehow managed to close our eyes and ears to the plight of Kosovan independence?

We started this journey with Blair and Clinton way back when. Regardless of what we think of those politicians today, and regardless of the very real difficulty of this task, we now need the courage and conviction to see this through.

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