The political noose is tightening on Serbia as regional neighbours begin to increasingly recognise the independence of Kosovo. Serbia’s hangmen, the United States and the European Union, prepared the rope but it now appears to be Serbia’s fellow Balkan states that are placing it over the country’s head. Slovenia, holding the European Union’s Presidency currently, was the first Balkan country to recognise Kosovo after Albania. Whilst the decision by Albania will have surprised few, in this instance Slovenia offers another example of its attempt to transport itself into the centre of Europe, both politically and geographically with closer links to Germany, Austria and Italy than to it’s former cell mates Macedonia and Montenegro.
The joint announcement of Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary that they view Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state will not have impressed the current Belgrade regime which is already suffering internal crisis as the parliament splits at the seems and the presidency was only recently saved from nationalist destruction by a slim margin of votes. Without the backing of regional powers like Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary, the latter two already European Union members and Croatia sure to follow soon, Serbia appears to be consuming itself, drifting down a potentially dangerous path that could retard the country and negate any progress that has been made since the fall of Milosevic. Russia’s obstruction of Kosovo’s membership to the United Nations matters very little when the majority of countries nevertheless recognise the state, especially since it can count on protection from the United States and the majority of European Union members. Aside from minor gains like a steady flow of gas, what can Serbia’s population gain from ever closer ties to Moscow?
Serbia’s politicians are in a no-win situation. By recognising Kosovo they would anger and alienate a great number of the potential voters. On the other hand, by not recognising Kosovo and cutting links with the European Union the population will undoubtedly suffer, feeling justifiable resent as they look over their borders at more prosperous neighbours. If one is to look back to the mid-1980s at the comparable lifestyles of people in Serbia and Romania only a fool would ever have believed that Romania would twenty years later be the more advanced country. Admittedly, a lot has transpired in those two decades, but purely stating that monolithic word “War” is not a complete enough answer. Aside from the NATO bombing of Belgrade and several other towns during the Kosovo conflict, Serbia has not experienced warfare on its territory. There have been the added problems that are associated with such a regional meltdown as occurred across the peninsular during the 1990s, a sanctions, a ravaged economy and an influx of refugees being but a few examples. Again though, these reasons alone do not justify Serbia’s current state since Croatia suffered far more hardships than Serbia, as can be seen in the complete obliteration of the town of Vukovar and the refugee crisis that saw hotels up and down the coast overflowing with families from Slavonia and Herzegovina.
The joint declaration made by Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria was eager to point out that whilst they now saw Kosovo as an independent state this was nevertheless a unique situation which did not set a precedent for other movements from across the globe. This is certainly a responsible move and one which will be congratulated by the United States and the European Union. Russia, in its ever increasing bickering with the West has stated that it will begin to explore the cases of territories such as Transdnistria and Abkhazia, a flag which should indicate to everyone that the Russian support for Serbia is not based upon Slavonic brotherhood but a desire to asset its own power. It is only a matter of time before Serbia realises the embarrassing reality that it is nothing but a political pawn in the eyes of the destabilising Moscow regime.
Whilst Serbia can attempt to obstruct Kosovo’s development, the majority of imports having to still pass through Serbia, the greatest looser here will be the Serbs who are winning no friends with anybody at the moment. The protesters who burned the American Embassy in Belgrade inadvertently made a very telling point when it came to light that the only casualty of their protests was one of their own youth who died after being trapped in the building. Sympathy for the Kosovo Serbs is also wearing thin after the death of a Ukrainian soldier in Mitrovica, the victim of a Serbian hurled grenade. Whilst countless Serb nationalists can claim that by accepting European Union deals the country would be prostituting itself and forgetting its true values, maybe it is time that these values are called into question.
Serbian protesters regularly mention events from history, looking back at injustices from the 1995 Croatian reclaiming of Krajina, the Second World War and even the medieval Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader says that the decision of his country to recognise Kosovo’s independence will be “a difficult one for Serbia to swallow”, but it is difficult decisions rather than easy ones which change the world. It is time that Serbia made a difficult decision for itself, accepted the inevitable and began to look to the future. This future is based firmly in Europe, as Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria have all already understood, and not with Russia, a country that offered its own unique “humanitarian aid” to Eastern Europe for fifty year with catastrophic consequences.
BBC News report on Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria recognising Kosovo
SEE Times article on Bulgarian declaration
New Kosova Report article on recognition