Conflating economic power and diplomacy: how the EU could contribute to making Kosovo's independence legitimate and safeguard peace in the Western Balkans.

Author:Smolnikov, Sergey
Position:European Union

Editor's Note: This essay addresses two recent continuous issues for the majority of Serbs. On one hand, the international community asks Serbia to accept as a fait accompli the February 2008 declaration of independence by Kosovo, one of two of Serbia's autonomous provinces. On the other hand, this same international community continues to thwart Serbian aspirations for a Greater Serbia, in which Serbia would assume control of the Republic of Serbska, located within Bosnia. Dr. Smolnikov provides several arguments as to why Kosovo's independence, with EU support, will become a recognized reality. He then turns his attention to the Republic of Serbska and makes a similar argument for Serbian expansion at Bosnia's expense. In what is certainly an interesting view of this Balkan version of an Alice in Wonderland world, Dr. Smolnikov argues that it is only right and fair that the international community assist in the creation of a Greater Serbia at the expense of Bosnia, which, if memory serves, is sort of what started the 1993 Serbian-Bosnian conflict in the first place.--JH, Am. Dip. Board

It did finally happen on February 17, 2008. As many international experts predicted, the parliament of Serbia's breakaway Muslim-populated province eventually declared its independence.

This article argues that the process of Kosovo's statehood formation has not been spontaneous, and rests upon incremental, comprehensive, and indispensable assistance from the West, and first and foremost from the European Union. It explains why and how the EU has emerged as a pivotal international sponsor and supervisor of state-building in Kosovo, and what needs to be done in terms of diplomacy and civil power to safeguard peace in the Western Balkans in the view of Kosovo's secession.

The Kosovo issue--a delicate and an unprecedented matter of secession in the European Union's backyard--looms large in the EU's foreign policy priorities not only because of its significance in terms of European politics and security, but above all because the way it is tackled by the EU is indicative of an important international phenomenon. By the latter we mean the Union's ability to act as an agent of post-modernity in world politics. Is the European Union capable of resolving the Kosovo issue to the benefit of all parties involved? What should the EU's policymakers undertake to ensure the compliance of Kosovo's independence with international law? The paper argues that in Kosovo the EU emerges as a state-creating entity and as a unique international actor delivering a full cycle of transition from war to peace--an experience that may be used in Iraq and other devastated areas of the globe. The article contends that in order to secure a comprehensive Pax Balcanica, the EU needs to complement its Kosovo policy by an innovative strategy with regard to both Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina while laying grounds for what may be called the EU's Liberalpolitik.

Theoretically, the EU's Kosovo policy presents an interesting example of the Union's ability to apply its institutionalist and multilateralist approach to resolving a complex dispute between a sovereign non-member state and its secession-prone province, which so recently declared its complete independence from the central authorities. Designing legitimate ways of granting independence for the former Serbian province has become one of the benchmarks of the EU's foreign-policy maturity and its ability to structure world politics in line with the European principles of law and justice.

In terms of its policy relevance, the Kosovo issue is of paramount strategic importance, not only for the Balkans or Europe in general. It is also of great significance for the future of the contentious world state system at large, because secessionist trends have been unfolding in different parts of the globe including the former Soviet Union and a larger Eurasia. Moscow, for example, has waged two bloody wars in its separatist Caucasian republic of Chechnya just to rediscover the same threats in other parts of its southern underbelly, like Ingushetia and Dagestan. The post-Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia, de facto disintegrated, are afraid that endorsement of Kosovo's independence by the EU would ultimately result in narrowing their state borders de jure. In Asia, China and India are concerned that the EU's rubber-stamping of Kosovo's statehood might set up a dangerous precedent in international practice that Tibet and Kashmir respectively would be tempted to follow. Finally, in the Middle East the statehood aspirations of Kurds might be encouraged in a way that risks bringing the integrity of Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Turkey into question. Yet, whatever the risks for the international status-quo are in the long run, in the midterm, the EU's commitment to acknowledgment of Kosovo's independence is likely to predominantly contribute to stirring secessionist trends in adjacent multiethnic states like Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Given the Union's economic magnitude, a new tide of fragmentation in the Balkans is likely to be followed by subsequent integration of emerging units into the EU's megastructure, or in a more cynical view, by absorption into a European "neo-empire." Therefore, Kosovo may be seen as a platform for the EU to work out a modernist state creation and integration model for a secession-prone territory.

The inter-ethnic showdown in Serbia took a form of ruthless military conflict in 1999 when the ethnic Albanians, accounting for 90 percent of Kosovo's two million population, clashed with Serbian forces as Belgrade attempted to prevent the province's secession. The hard-line crackdown on Muslim Kosovars by the central government of Slobodan Milocevic was inter alia caused by the spiritual and historic significance of the province's territory for the Serbs, who appear to view the land as a sacred symbol of Serbia's Christian nationhood and an integral part of their state territory. Given the sensitivity of the issue and a high degree of mutual hatred between the two ethnicities, the EU's task has initially been to find a solution for this complex problem that would set iron-clad guarantees against any propensity toward new bloodshed between the Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs.

The rationale behind the EU's moving to the forefront in international efforts to settle the Kosovo issue may be defined as four-fold.

* Firstly, it is about bringing tranquillity to the Western Balkans, which has been an omnipresent war-prone zone of bloody conflict detrimental to European peace and stability, through tangible and comprehensive European presence and supervision.

* Secondly, it is in this underdeveloped and disturbed part of the Old Continent that the Union is perfecting a universal model of creating a modern state's institutions and an advanced economic infrastructure from zero. As the EU embarks on the West's global mission of securing transition from war to peace in the twenty-first century, it emerges as the only world actor able to comprehensively manage peaceful reconstruction in embattled territories like Kosovo--something that the United States is recognized to be failing to do in Iraq or elsewhere. (1)

* Thirdly, with the inception of a peaceful fragmentation paradigm in the European periphery, the Union appears to be tacitly preparing for its role in future secession settlements within the EU.

* Fourthly, the Kosovo model paves the way for "voluntarily" fragmented non-EU states to eventually be integrated into the Union's megastructures--an option that otherwise would be almost impossible to implement given the degree of volatility in their mother states.

The EU's "state inception" policy in Kosovo rests upon several pillars--military, institutional, economic, and diplomatic.

Firstly, with the UN's mandate, the Union's member states are engaged in the peacekeeping mission of NATO's KFOR, also probing Europe's hard...

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