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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Serbia’s Core - Kosovo: Part I: The Games of Our Days

Welcome back and wish you all a happy and purposeful 2011.

We shall continue with the practice of starting off with what I think are interesting diversions before heading to the subject matter of the post.

Germany's growth and industrial power was supported over the (nearly) past two decades by the twin engines of American appetite for consumption and credit-led growth in parts of Europe where productivity growth did not match rise in real-income.  That granted Germany the domestic political space and gave it the financial muscles needed to continue to champion pan-EU institutions and, in large measure, finance EU's expansion while overlooking the the many unsustainable budgetary trends and destabilizing increase in private credit in many EU states.  The German appetite for continuing as the main financier of the EU will significantly decrease, both, as a result of internal politics and, as a result of the new global environment that will not be economically benign towards nations that have a heavy reliance on an export-led model.  Besides, the growing entente between Germany and Russia reduces the motive of Germany to make, what it perceives, are unilateral concessions towards the EU.  In the context of these trends, I have two questions for those at the helm of the affairs of Poland:

1. Will Poland accept the institutionalization within the EU of measures such as the recent ones taken with regards to Ireland that substantially reduced the latter's sovereign right of control over its own budgetary and taxation processes?

2. Nations, unlike other expressions of shared destiny, have to survive in the long-run which makes it imperative for them to plan for the worst case.  Historically speaking, periods of German and Russian entente have been tragic for Poland, just have been the years of animosty between the two.  If EU works out for Poland as Poland hopes has hoped then, Poland's participation in the EU would guarantee its strategic security.  What options is Poland creating for its strategic security during these times of extraordinary peace and economic growth in Poland even as it continues to deepen its commitment to the EU?

Yours, thinking about Serbia's difficult choices in the new decade analyst,



Vuk Jeremić has two clear tasks as the Foreign Minister of Serbia - put Serbia on the glide path to EU accession and delay the emergence of Kosovo as a sovereign state [1].  While Serbia’s proposals for granting substantial operational autonomy to Kosovo haven’t cut ice, Serbia is happy with the status quo.  However the US, Germany and the UK are not.  The window of military coercion closed as a result of the adoption of the UNSC Resolution 1244 [2], the subsequent removal of Slobodan Milošević and the emergence of elite consensus in Serbia on eschewing force in dealing with secessionist elements in Kosovo [3].

As nationalism tempered Serbia’s focus shifted to repairing relations with international institutions and rebuilding its economy; EU accession and access to international markets, multilateral loans and foreign aid became a priority.  This in turn created new levers for those wanting to backtrack from their obligation under resolution 1244 to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In addition to riding on Serbia’s wants, those countries sought to weaken its resolve by presenting a sovereign Kosovo as a fait accompli.  The thinking was that Serbia’s position would become increasingly untenable as more and more UN members recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty.  A significant number of member states however remain undecided or are against a Kosovo born through unilateral declaration of independence [4].  An alternative route is a vote at the much smaller though highly influential, UNSC [5].  While the vote will not pass China’s veto [6], it could expose Serbia to an additional parallel channel of pressure to acquiesce to Kosovo’s secession [7].

In the early 20th century the unification drive in the region was shaped by the interplay of the force that sought to establish ‘Greater Serbia’ and that driven by desire of the southern Slavic people to escape the yoke of the Austro-Hungarian or the Turkish empires or the growing influence of the Russian Empire.  Over time however changing geopolitical realities eliminated the fear of foreign domination, which in turn ended up highlighting the internal contradictions in the communist state of Yugoslavia and lead to increasing centrifugal tendencies since the 1960s (see Map 1), of which the Kosovo case may be viewed as the latest manifestation.

Map 1 [8]: Fragmentation of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: 1989 - SFRY, 2010 - Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia

In subsequent posts we will cover:

·       factors underlying the emergence of Yugoslavia as a unified state
·       emergent secessionist tendencies in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) of which Serbia is the successor state,
·       changes in the domestic and international status of Kosovo since 1974 and
·       the reason why despite agreeing to secession by five other members from its parent state, in spite of the current administrative realities in Kosovo [9] and the fact that an overwhelming majority of  Kosovars prefer independence, Serbia is against Kosovo’s independence.

[1] Had Serbia been guided by the consensus on choice instead of by a consensus on what is feasible, the second goal would have been to prevent, rather than delay, Kosovo’s emergence as a sovereign.
[2] UNSC - United Nations Security Council
[3] Unless a strong expression of Serbian nationalism appears to be associated with the onset of a new spiraling crisis in the Balkans, the military window will likely remain closed.
[4] As of December 31, 2010, 72 of the 192 UN member states have recognized Kosovo’s independence.
[5] Resolutions recommended by a majority of UNSC members carry significant political and moral weight as the Article 5 of the UN Charter requires all UN member states to “agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council”.
[6] China is firmly opposed to allowing legitimacy to the idea of unilateral declaration of independence for regions that do not meet the “salt-water colonization” criteria (see the UNGA Resolution 1541 (XV)).
[7] Kosovo’s last declared independence from Serbia on Feb 17, 2008.  This declaration received much wider international support than an earlier declaration on Sep 22, 1991.
[9] Serbia retains almost no control of Kosovo.  The territory is administered by international bodies such as the EULEX and the UNMIK, aided in local duties by Kosovar leaders.

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