23 March 2007

Kosovo's independence to open global Pandora's box

BBC Monitoring Europe (Political) - December 8, 2006, Friday


Text of commentary by Lj. Staletovic: "Domino effect possible with epicentre in Pristina" by Serbian newspaper Glas javnosti on 6 December


A precedent made in the case of Kosovo could open a Pandora's box, giving new topicality to all separatist demands and creating new crisis spots in the world. Therefore, the eyes of the world - and especially the eyes of the about 500 out of a total of 5,000 different ethnic groups in 200 countries all over the world that are seeking autonomy or a separate state - are trained on Kosovo-Metohija, waiting to see how its problem will be solved.


Like a domino effect, the crisis would first spill over into Albanian-populated areas. The first affected would certainly be the south of Serbia, where ethnic Albanians in Bujanovac, Presevo, and Medvedja would begin by demanding autonomy before moving on to demand the right to annexation to Kosovo. Albanians are already referring to this part of Serbia as "eastern Kosovo." Western Macedonia, which Albanians call Illyrida, would not be spared, either; it is not impossible that the "virus of annexation to Kosovo" could infect Albanians in Montenegro as well. In that case, the next in line would be Greece, which from time to time has problems with its own Albanian national minority.


This would be an added problem for Greece, in view of long years of the Cyprus crisis and problems with neighbouring Turkey over the divided island.


If Albanians managed to achieve independence, the [Bosnian] Serb Republic could also invoke this precedent and point out the fact that 90 per cent of its population wants to secede [from Bosnia-Hercegovina].


"Kosovoization" could affect also countries that Albanians look upon as their allies. A precedent made in the case of Serbia's southern province could "come knocking" also at the door of the United Kingdom, with calls for a United Ireland or for the secession of Scotland and Wales.


The virus of separatism would not miss France, either, and its region of Brittany. Galicia, too, is a potential flashpoint, as is Corsica. Then there are Sardinia, Flanders, Wallonia, and Trentino Alto Adige.


What may happen to France and Italy may very well happen also to Spain, which already has problems in the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Andalusia. Last March, the Spanish Government approved a plan whereby Catalonia was given wider powers in the areas of the judiciary and taxation, which provoked a variety of reactions - while some thought that the decision was "watered down," others insisted that Spain was in danger of fragmentation.


Russians had been the first to draw attention to the danger from a Kosovo precedent, because they would be directly affected. The Kosovo precedent could be applied to the Dniester region in Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, which want to be annexed to Russia, as well as to Chechnya, which wants to secede.


The problem would, thus, spread to the Asian continent and directly affect China. One has only to remember Tibet or China's Xinjiang province, whose populations have separatist aspirations.


Although it seems that separatist movements in the world, and especially in Europe, are not as prominent as before, the fact remains that many areas, regions, and provinces and their populations want independence. The question is how they will go about achieving it.


[Box] Terrorist movements dying out


Regional separatist movements in Europe, although apparently dying out, are in fact only changing their way of operation, so that the chances of their resorting to terrorism are diminishing. Even ETA is slowly giving way to political methods of struggle. Various terrorist groups in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and Corsica are slowly disappearing.


Desmond Clifford, director of the EU Wales Office in Brussels, has recently said that, "in today's Europe, independence struggles no longer make sense" and that people are wondering "what is the meaning of independence in today's world." In this context, Clifford mentions membership in the European Union and NATO, which provide strategic defence.


Source: Glas javnosti, Belgrade, in Serbian 6 Dec 06