måndag 18 februari 2008

Kosovo independence

The newly-declared independence of Kosovo is likely to have far-reaching and possibly dangerous repercussions.

The country was for several hundred years Serbian and Christian. It fell into the orbit of the Ottoman empire in 1389, following the defeat at the Battle of Kosovo. After this came centuries of oppression and islamicisation. In fact, the spread of the Ottoman empire did not end until 1683, when the Turkish armies who were besieging Vienna were defeated by armies led by the Polish King King John III Sobieski, who successfully attacked from the high ground above Vienna. The defeat of the Ottomans led to the rise of the Austro-Hungarian empire as a Balkan power, ending with the events of 1914 and after.

The politics of the Balkans remains in essence what it was in 1914. The Catholic Croatians look to the west, whilst the Orthodox Serbs see Russia as their protector. The apparently successful attempt to split off a Islamicised part of Serbia was inevitably going to arouse anger in Serbia, and hence in Russia.

It is a mistake for EU countries to recognise this new state and the consequences of doing could unfold unpleasantly.

The whole way in which the dismemberment of Yugoslavia was handled was wrong. There is no reason in principal why people with linguistic and religious differences have to divide themeselves into independent nation states. Some kind of federal solution based on the Swiss model might have had a chance of working. Instead of just recognising states as they managed to break loose, the EU should have used its influence to get the disputing parties round a table so that as many people was possible got what they wanted.

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