Editorial: Canada needs to recognize Kosovo

By Chris Tait

On Feb. 17, Kosovo declared itself an independent nation from Serbia.

Some countries, especially those with possible separatist segments of their population, have needlessly gotten themselves worked up over recognizing the newly formed country. Nor should separatist regions in the west be encouraged by Kosovo’s declared independence, as their individual situations are distinct almost beyond comparison. The Canadian government has yet to release an official stance on the issue.

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev–likely the future president of the nation–warned that acknowledgement of Kosovo’s sovereignty would set a dangerous precedent for other regions possibly seeking separation. He added that encouraging ethnic groups to separate may provoke them to do so forcefully. The only thing lending power to this concern is the fear that announcements like this have created. The announcement itself runs the risk of becoming the driving force for the separatist groups, which is utterly counter-productive for anti-separatists.

Evidently, based on the conflict in the late 1990s between the predominantly Serb government and Albanian militant groups, the assertion that an independent Kosovo nation will do more to hurt security in the Balkans than its governance by Serbia is moot. Provided Kosovo is able to maintain an acceptable level of security¬≠–which the United Nations has been helping them establish–there is no reason their separation should be more bloody than what could have developed into full-blown and prolonged civil war.

The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo has been in direct contact with the Serbian and Kosovar governments for the past few years assessing the situation in the area. The envoy is former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.

According to Report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Kosovo’s future status, a 2007 document put out by UNOSEK, Kosovo has already been in a state of de facto, self-governing independence for the past eight and a half years, since the period following the NATO intervention in 1999. The report makes several provisions for what the UN would consider acceptable in gaining independence, including a decentralization of government and acceptance of the region’s minorities.

So far, Kosovo’s government has adhered to the provisions of the settlement provided by Ahtisaari.

Though Milosevic has long since been deposed, any government that allows its military to perform atrocities on its own citizenry immediately forfeits its right to control regional separation of that targeted population and needn’t scratch its head as to why. Given their government’s basis in democracy, it’d be a difficult point to refute.

The Albanian regional ethnic majority is stronger than that of Serbs in the remainder of Serbia, according to 2005 Kosovo in Figures Survey by the Statistical Office of Kosovo. At 92 per cent compared to less than 1 per cent of Albanians in the rest of Serbia, they are a segregated population that had been provoked to retaliate by an intolerant and exclusive Serb government.

Meanwhile, with Serb police suddenly refusing to work for their Kosovar superiors and rallying activists in the proposed country’s northern regions, Kosovo’s challenge will be to convince the rest of the world they are able to maintain political stability and security in the face of accusations, most vocally Russian, of potential arms and drug smuggling.

By comparison, many of the regions with histories of separatist ideology, while often maintaining a regional level of government, are also often heavily involved in their national politics. For example, the Bloc Quebecois represents the interests of a great number of Quebecers in Canadian federal politics. The discourse is therefore taking place and the ethnic concerns are being raised. Though some residents of Quebec may feel they deserve more attention on the national stage, their interests have not been neglected to the point where separation would be an appropriate or beneficial action. After all, they have benefited from provincial transfer payments since their inception in the early 80s. They are able to maintain their language, courts system and distinct cultural elements, while still functioning as a part of the country as a whole.

The Canadian government has a responsibility to accept that the Kosovar separation was conducted democratically and should welcome the new country into the international community.

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