It is a year since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Insomnia led me to the BBCs ‘The Record Europe’ programme last night which included an interesting discussion of the implications of the widespread international recognition of Kosovo as a state.
The Serbs have been cast as Europe’s bad guys for some years and the Milosevic regime’s treatment of Kosovans added to the antipathy felt towards the Serbian state. Not too surprising, then, that numerous Western states rushed to recognise the legitimacy of the Kosovan state. The problem, that has been illustrated starkly in the more recent Georgian conflict, is that it sets something of a precedent.
Five EU states – including Romania and Cyprus – have not recognised Kosovo. Social Democrat MEP Adrian Severin argues that this has nothing to do with Romanian self interest. Well…, lets be charitable and say that while we are sure he firmly believes that to be the case, there may be others who would point to Romanian concerns about challenges to the country’s territorial integrity as a result of the Kosovan move.
Severin’s apparent assertion that countries should only gain their independence with the consent of the state they are seceding from stacks up uncomfortably against the whole region’s centuries-long struggle against imperial domination. Yet, it raises an important question: when should a group of people be able to legitimately declare independence from an established state? What’s to stop Surrey, say, from declaring UDI from the United Kingdom if the majority of its people so decide?
As a post script, the same recording (which is only available at that site for the next few days) includes a treat for Eurosceptics with coverage of Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s recent speech to the European Parliament.