Breaking away

Did anybody write on anything about Kosovo declaring its independence? It probably seemed of little significance. The country that will most probably be internationally accepted soon is indeed of very little relevance, with extremely little chances of appearing in the news any time soon, unless there would be some really serious humanitarian or catastrophic issues. And these things are quite rare for such small countries in Europe. However one thing that IS quite important is the fact that Kosovo created quite a unique precedence.

I don’t remember the last time when some portion of a country (Serbia in this case) unilaterally declared independence and was taken seriously by the US, the UK, Germany, France, Turkey and some other countries, immediately. Many other countries followed a few days later. Serbs were expecting the move, but not knowing the exact date (which was quite intelligently orchestrated by Kosovo’s leaders, and probably their foreign advisers), the declaration took them by surprise, which created a state of depression at first, but turned violent a few days later, so far having culminated in setting the US embassy on fire.

Neither Serbia, nor Kosovo, are important countries or regions but the question of regionalism, territorial integrity, ethnicity and nationalism and how to define them, and their relations with each other, has this time been raised on an International level, where countries have confronted the issue directly, being faced either to recognise a self-declared country or not! Some powerful countries openly criticised Kosovo’s move and did not recognise the declaration of independence.

All the countries that did not recognise the independence have serious existent, or potential, secessionist movements of their own. Russia has real or potential problems with Chechnya, Daghestan and so on, China with Taiwan, Tibet and Turkestan, India with Kashmir, while Spain with the Basque region and Catalonia. These countries (and some others) did not recognise Kosovo’s declaration for fearing it would set a dangerous precedence.

How did then Britain and France embrace Kosovo’s declaration while they too have regions that may have serious secessionist aspirations? Scotland has for a very long time thought, and re-thought, separation from the rest of the United Kingdom, and let’s be serious, Scotland is the second most important part of the kingdom! France has two hotspots, its own Basque region, and Corsica! The United States though is probably the only large (and extremely diverse) country in the world where there is no FEAR of secessionism. In fact in case the US would create a possibility for other countries to join the federation and set some standards for it to be met (as the EU has been doing) there would be plenty of candidates out there.

Going back to the event itself, it is important to analyse the issue and see who is right and who is not, though the exact truth must lie somewhere in between. Did Kosovo have the right to separate from Serbia? Well, in case we believe in democracy we must give the people what they really want, so if Kosovars wanted independence, then let it be so! Did the Serbs have the right to have Kosovo while Kosovars (Albanians who are 90% of the population) did not want to? Serbs can say that Kosovo belonged to them historically but that can only be a one-sided interpretation of history because Kosovo belonged to the Ottoman Empire far longer than it belonged to any Serb entity. Serbs felt humiliated because a part of their land was cut off and many countries immediately acknowledged it. They should have probably acted with more dignity and work with the Kosovars and PRETEND to agree with the unpredictable.

But then again, the last powerful leader Serbia had (Slobodan Milosevic) turned out to be a mass-murderer and Serbs had kind of lost appetite for strong leaders who would take bold decisions. And Serbia’s current rulers saw it most politically comforting to go with the nationalistic public sentiment and deny the reality. Serbs should have avoided the whole national humiliation by giving the sense that they agree with the declaration of independence because afterall it was their historical mistake once with Tito’s policies, and then with Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing that created the REAL problem.

And looking at the international aspect of the event and the possible precedence that it might create it is important to note that most of the truly democratic countries, even with their own potential separatist movements, recognised Kosovo’s declaration of independence and authoritarian countries with separatist movements of their own did not recognise the declaration. Therefore it is up to any person to judge who he or she sides with, democracy or autocracy. One serious exception (being different and less democratic than the rest of the other important countries recognising Kosov’s independence) has been Turkey.

Turkey is supposed to be the land of the Turks though it is not the land of the Turks, and some probably 10-15 million Kurds, who are not Turks, live there. However Turkey was swift in recognising the independence of an Islamic region, ignoring the possible precedence it might have for Iraq’s Kurdistan, hence for Turkey’s Kurdistan later. This shows that Islam is nevertheless a more powerful factor for the Turkish public than nationalism and Turkish politicians could have probably found it difficult to explain any other decision to their unavoidable electorate.

But what is to be learnt from this, Serbia’s humiliation, and the fact that large democratic countries fearing no real separatism of their own recognised the bold unilateral action taken by Kosovo? It is important to note that countries that have created effective decentralisation so that their regions, no matter how different in their aspirations or fundamental popular characteristics, can manage their own affairs, have no real fear of separatism because free people are more concerned about their daily lives rather than creating various small states of their own with potential economic and social problems and dysfunctionalities.

This is also the right path for other countries, to create decentralised governments giving as much power to regions as possible. Turkish leaders must also have the boldness to move toward this path, therefore creating the premise to avoid being caught off-guard when Iraq’s Kurdistan may decide to declare its own independence! The same reality must apply to Iran, though Iran has the far worse situation of struggling with a regime that has little, if any, interest in what is best for Iranians.

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