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Kosovo and the road ahead

by Archives February 26, 2008

The people of Kosovo might be celebrating their newfound independence from Serbia, but the move is above all a much-needed symbolic release, and daily life in the region will change very little.
When Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008, the country took a necessary political step forward, despite remaining under the control of international forces, and out of the limbo its citizens had been living in for the last nine years.
Kosovo has been under UN protection since 1999, when Serbian troops pulled out of the province after having claimed almost 2,000 ethnic-Albanian lives and provoking an exodus of 250,000 others. Since then, residents have been living with energy blackouts and limited access to water. Kosovo might have a new flag, but its people will continue to live in poverty.
Kosovo is dependent on Serbia for its electricity and essential provisions, and an embargo could lead to a lack of food supplies. It’s been a long time since the region’s large companies have been open, and Kosovo is barely surviving on its commercial and services sectors. The new country’s only hope to advance its financial situation is to resurrect its mining activities, but Kosovo is too close to crisis to be focusing on economics.
Now that Kosovo has declared its independence, Serbia will do all it can to reclaim control of the province, which has historically been identified as the Serbian Orthodox Church’s medieval heartland. This tension will feed into the greater ethnic confrontations between Albanian and Serbian militias already active in the region.
Although Serbia, and its greatest political ally Russia, have sworn not to send their armies into Kosovo, a change in policy might occur if violent ethnic confrontations continue in the north of the province, where most of Kosovo’s Serbian citizens live. Serbians make up 10 per cent of Kosovo’s two million inhabitants, and the province’s declaration of independence will almost certainly provoke a mass exodus, either by choice or by force, of Serbs from the region.
Canada, for its part, has not yet taken position and is still “assessing the situation,” mainly because it has to deal with its own separatist group and is reluctant to set a precedent. However, the Quebec situation is in almost every way different from Kosovo’s, except for sharing the key word separatist.
Quebec has its own issues and its own history, and the Canadian government’s approval of Kosovo is less than likely to rekindle any real separatist ambitions still alive in the province.
Sure, some people might say, “Hey, you let them do it,” but I doubt that’s the best argument sovereigntists have come up with.

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