According to the latest reports, Kosovo will declare independence from Serbia on February 17th, and as we know from a leaked document, the United States, which strongly favour an independent Kosovo have been pressuring (or strongly indicating their desire, whichever you preffer) Slovenia to be among the first countries to recognize an independent Kosovo. This has sparked a heated debate in Slovenia, which has as of late concentrated mostly on who is to blame on the leak rather than should Slovenia actually recognize Kosovo, slthough the latter is a much more important question.
While some prominent politicians (incluing Former President Milan Kučan) and some highly-respectable bloggers think otherwise, I’m covinced there are scores of reasons for immediate recognition of Kosovo. As odd as it may seem, Slovenia and Kosovo share a common link in recent history (apart for the fact that they’ve both been a part of Yugoslavia). Personally, I think that for a plethora of reasons it is Slovenia’s – shall we be dramatic – duty to recognise an independent Kosovo as soon as the province declares independence.
As all nations, Kosovars too have a right to self-determination and their drive for an independent Kosovo is far from recent. Still as a part of Yugoslavia, Kosovo demaded an “upgrade” from a status od an autonomous region withih Serbia to a full-fledged republic. This did not happen, although the cry “Kosovo Republjik!” was getting louder and louder. And while the Yugoslav constitution of 1974 did not recognize Kosovo as a state within Yugoslavia (the six republics were treated as sovereing states, a fact that helped Slovenia greatly in getting legal ground for independence in 1991), it gave the region all the attributes of a republic.
It had its own administration, judiciary, assembly, police, League of Communists, eductational system, media – and perhaps most importnatly: it has equal representation in all federal organs as the republics – including the eight-member Presidency, comprised of representatives of the six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia) and two autonomous regions (Vojvodina and Kosovo). The 1974 Yugoslav constitution gave republics and regions as much independence as they could get without actually breaking up Yugoslavia – and it definitely gave Kosovars about as much independence as they could get for the next 34 years.
As Yugoslavia began experiencing a deadly mix of severe economic troubles, a grid-locked political system, a power-hungry Yugoslav National Army which was about to perform a coup d’etat and a drive by Serbia’s leadership (predominantly Slobodan Milošević) to solve problems by redrawing borders in favour of Serbia, the country that was once a powerful player began to disintegrate into sun dust.
A part of disintegration were also constitutional changes of 1988 which almost completely reversed the constitution of 1974 and – althtough illegal – stripped Kosovo of its autonomy, transfering all decisions about the future of the region from Priština back to Belgrade. And this is where paths of Slovenia and Kosovo intersect for a brief moment in history.
In Kosovo, the stripping of autonomy and subsequent replacing of region’s Kosovar leadership prompted miners in the mining town of Stari Trg to declare a hunger-strike until the autonomy is restored. The strike ended without meeting miner’s demands (naturally), but not before a meeting was held in Slovenia by both the emerging opposition and the ruling communist party supporting the miners, which sent shockwaves throught Belgrade, because Slovenia and Kosovo were suddenly on the same wavelenght – a seemingly impossible event until then.
But the fate of Kosovo was sealed much before that. In 1987 as the region grew restless and Serbs, being a minority in the region, but an overwhelming majority in Greater Serbia (Serbia plus both regions) often clashed with Kosovars – mostly with words, but sometimes with fists. And on one such occasion, Slobodan Milošević, then still Serbia’s second-in-command was witness to such a fight as Serbs in Kosovo gathered en masse and the predominantly-Kosovar police, fearing a riot, started using batons. Milošević ran out to see what was going on and he used a phrase which transformed him from a colourless aparatchik to a nationalist leader.
“Niko ne sme da vas bije!” (noone is allowed to beat you), he said to the demonstrating Serbs, who were already throwing rocks as the police and the mob (correctly, as it turned out) understood that as a green light for a rampage. A rampage that went on until 1999 – the year that Milošević lost his fourth war in Yugoslavia, this time beaten by NATO forces. The phrase became the gist of Milošević’s political creed – that Serbs are somehow superior to all other Yugoslav nations and have the right to live in Great Serbia – a country which spans to wherever in Yugoslavia Serbs live.
Thus Milošević started the breakup of Yugoslavia in Kosovo and it is only right and fitting that the process come full circle and ends where it started twenty-one years ago. Slovenia declared independence only four years after that fateful phrase and the memory of every political power in the world (including the EU and the US) trying to block our way to independece one way or another is still very much alive.
Not so much out of solidarity or heeding to a US dictate, but out of the fact that Kosovo has similiar legal grounds for independence and that Serbia lost it by waging war against its people (just as it did in Slovenia), I think that Slovenia must recognize Kosovo as soon as it declares independence. I think it is only fair that Slovena uses the same arguments when deciding on this as it did when arguing its own case for independence seventeen years ago.
I recognize the fact that times change and that today Slovenia has a growing economic interest in Serbia and that the US is probably favouring independent Kosovo out of economic reasons (and that Russia is probably opposing it for precisely the same reasons) and that an independent Kosovo could be viewed by other independence movements across the world as a model for their cause, but it would be extremely unhealthy if the process of Yugoslav breakup is not completely finished. And that includes the fact that two of the most wanted war criminals, Radovan Karadžić and general Ratko Mladić, both responsible for Serbian atroccities in Bosnian war are still at large.
The EU (including Slovenian government) is in danger of short-circuting the process by giving Serbia a partnership agreement before the two are brought before the Hague tribunal. Should this happen, the Serbs will skate clean yet again, which will both undermine the seriousness of the Hague tribunal and the belief in human rights which the EU supposedly holds so dear. This would also send a disatrous message to other candidate states, especially Croatia and Turkey, possibly stopping the expansion completely and preventing the EU from becoming a global player also in geopolitical terms.
In short: Slovenia should recognize Kosovo as soon as the region declares independece and refrain from signign any treaty until Karadžić and Mladić are in the Hague – or at least until proof given that they will find themselves there in an extremely short period of time. This is vital both for completion of the conclusion of the Yugoslav breakup and the continuation of EU expansion.
*special mention (Serbian only): http://arhiva.mojblog.co.yu/p-niko-ne-sme-da-vas-bije/16777.html