Kosovo and Serbia: An unnecessary split

PHOTO: War-torn Pristina, Kosovo (2000)

A largely forgotten war that took place nearly eight years ago brings to light modern struggles of nationalism in Europe. I’m speaking of Kosovo and its declaration of independence from Serbia. Since 1999, Kosovo has been under the protection of UN forces and, as far as I can see, would still need the aid from the UN, NATO, and the EU to continue to operate. It is one of the poorest countries in Europe and, along with other breakaway and new republics such as Transdniester and Republica Srpska as well as the dictatorship in Belarus, remains one of the many thorns in the side of a consolidating Europe.

I ask myself “Why is it necessary to split apart?” There are many modern nations in Europe that have as long, bloody, and violent a history as Kosovo. Any visitor to Spain will quickly realize that it is seven countries in one. The rights and regional abilities to rule are granted to the people’s of Scotland, Wales, and North Ireland though all are part of the United Kingdom.

Kosovo will never have real and complete independence as long as it needs aid from the world, while it solves its economic problems during the coming centuries. It will not be a quick turnaround process but another backwater struggle to make ends meet while sucking at the teat of various NGOs, the UN, and the EU.

In this day and age, with literature of democracy, freedom, egalitarianism, and every sort of government research institute under the sun, why not try and, I don’t know, get along? A very autonomous federated state within Serbia would possibly work and hopefully appease both sides. Unfortunately, it is an all or nothing issue to both the Serbian and Kosovar governments. Modern countries can function with ethnic groups, even whole ethnic countries inside of them. Russia has nearly 20 republics within it with varying degrees of autonomy. But it seems no one wants to try that.

Personally, I do not think that the separation will lessen tensions between the two groups nor solve any major economic or societal issues. Leaving the past far behind and trying to create a coexistent peaceful future should be the focus of both the Serb and Kosovar governments, not continuing territorial spats that have last for 1500 years.

Flickr photo of war-torn Pristina, Kosovo (2000) by M_Eriksson

3 Comments

  1. Ian

    I’ll say before I start that I am not really here to take a side in the argument. I’m not from Kosovo nor Serbia so I can’t really pretend to have a clue about what is going on over there. I’m just here to kind of go after this post.

    I’m not sure I follow your logic here. You seem to be suggesting that these people should just get along rather than go to the trouble of declaring independence since their economy isn’t up to par? This part here is particularly… uhhh… not logical:

    “Kosovo will never have real and complete independence as long as it needs aid from the world, while it solves its economic problems during the coming centuries.”

    Centuries? Really? I mean that just seems like gross hyperbole to me. A lot can change over the course of a century. Heck a lot can change in a fraction of a century. The US isn’t that old you know and we have gone from small colonies to most powerful nation in the world in the course of 230 years.

    A nation’s right to exist certainly shouldn’t hinge on their ability to be a major economic player. And the logic of not needing aid from the world is kind of bad too. Isn’t the US in massive debt? Isn’t other countries loaning us money “aid”? How many other countries around the world are being torn apart by civil wars? Should those countries just be merged with other ones and told to get along?

    “Any visitor to Spain will quickly realize that it is seven countries in one.”

    Right… but what does that have to do with Kosovo? Apple and oranges. The history of Spain and the history of Serbia and Kosovo are not the same. The peoples there are not the same. And just because Spain is “seven countries in one” doesn’t mean it should be. Did Ireland or India or the US not have a right to want independence from Britain? The arguments you make are really kind of silly. These people see this as a much bigger deal than “just getting along”.

    “Russia has nearly 20 republics within it with varying degrees of autonomy.”

    This is funny. Russia clamps down hard on anyone who wants their independence. Look at Chechnya. How many states finally got to break free when the USSR fell?

  2. Now that I’ve had a bit more time to think about at (and am less ill than when this was written) I’d like to say that a good thing to think about is ‘why does this or any other ethnic enclave need to be separate?’.

    My main point is that no matter the amount of subdivisions, lack or support from international organizations or other countries, and research or money that goes into “nation-building” it’s still upon the parties that cannot get along with one another to reconcile and try to treat the other respect.

    Drawing more artificial lines is not the answer.

    [A nation’s right to exist certainly shouldn’t hinge on their ability to be a major economic player. And the logic of not needing aid from the world is kind of bad too.[

    They do not have to be a major economic player but one would think that at some point they would like to be able to provide for their citizens without having to be dependent on asking for aid from world organizations and constantly being seen or misunderstood as victims.

    [Isn’t the US in massive debt?]

    Yes, but that is different. That’s economics. Money in, money out. Our debt is created by our lovely billion dollar war in Iraq. It rolls over each year, the Chinese and others buy it up as an investment in stabilizing our future, and we hope it doesn’t get worse because of idiotic policy decisions.

    [Isn’t other countries loaning us money “aid”?]

    No. See above.

    [How many other countries around the world are being torn apart by civil wars?]

    A lot. But some of those are based on economics, on resources, on ethnic/tribal issues, or religious issues. A civil war is a multi-faceted ugly little thing.

    [Should those countries just be merged with other ones and told to get along?]

    Pretty much. I don’t know about merging but, and this sounds rather simplistic, once people really take to heart the idea of treating their fellow humans as they would like to be treating (“I won’t chop off John’s son’s arm because I wouldn’t want my son’s arm chopped off”) then maybe we can see a cessation of some of genocide and civil wars in a majority of places. Unfortunately, there are a lot of angry, impoverished and frustrated people in this world and that can very easily boil over into blame of other peoples/groups for their problems. I think that in situations like the one in Kosovo, a reconciliation, trying to come to a common understanding over history, and democratic rights and representation is most important. This is a band-aid for a larger problem and the wound will fester and tensions will continue there.

    [Spain, apples and oranges]

    Not really. Not only does the Basque country have active separatists but the people of Galicia as well as Catalunya have been fighting (albeit peacefully and through political rather than militaristic channels) for varying degrees of autonomy for years. This gives them more ammo for the fight (which is one reason Spain is taking Serbia’s side in this most likely). This causes questions in N Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It will give precedence to the Transdniester Republic, Abkhazia, and other people who do want their own little sliver of the world to be called after themselves.

    And there’s nothing wrong with this. The question remains: is this the right course of action? Is there not a better way to see to that these people, within larger nations and functioning governments, can gain more autonomy, representation or whatever they desire through means that does not cause anger or resentment on either side?

    [Russia clamps down hard on anyone who wants their independence.]

    Within Russia there are 21 republics with varying degrees of autonomy but they are still a part of the Russian Federation. Chechnya and some of the other secessionist ones are a special case. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republics_of_Russia

    [How many states finally got to break free when the USSR fell?]

    I think 14. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan.

    I hope that this comment has clarified some of my points and I apologize if some of it was confusing, especially the economic part. This is a forum for trying to challenge accepted ideas and with talks of partitioning Iraq and other trouble spots (and Afghanistan in the past) it seems that governments want to use these as quick fixes rather than addressing the underlying problems. I think more integration is better than more separation. A multi-ethnic society that respects the rights, cultures, and histories of everyone is what we should strive for rather than hiding out in our homogeneous enclaves.

  3. Ian

    I think you are trivializing the notion of national independence. By your logic, there should be no national divisions at all in the world and we should all just be one big country. You see “togetherness” as a good thing, and to some extent I agree. However, forcing lots of different ethnic groups together results in a homogenization of cultures and a loss of what makes different peoples culturally distinct. Look at what happens to immigrants in this nation after a few generations. They completely lose their past cultural identity. I don’t know if that is a good thing.

    [Spain] “Not really.”

    No… yes really. It isn’t the same people. They don’t have the same history. You can’t generalize like this and force every rebellion or issue of national identity into the same mold. It shows a lack of sensitivity to the issues at hand. While it is convenient, its wrong.

    “I think 14. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan.”

    That was rhetorical, but thanks I guess. My point remains that Russia today (and the USSR in the past) is composed of lots of different ethnic groups that were to some extent merged into one nation against their will.

    “A multi-ethnic society that respects the rights, cultures, and histories of everyone is what we should strive for rather than hiding out in our homogeneous enclaves.”

    And see I think this statement is 100% wrong. You can’t force people to get along. You can’t have a society like this because issues like race, religion, gender, class, etc get in the way. Muslim countries feel that there should be very different laws than Christian countries do. I think people have a right to live how they want to live and in general be governed as they see fit. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to live the same way. You are in general arguing for the homogenization of all cultures into one.