Sunday, 17 February 2008

Kosovo- Declares itself independent from Serbia.

Well the week’s worst kept secret happened this afternoon as Kosovo declared itself independent from Serbia. I have followed this story very closely as I spent the end of 1999 and the start of 200 in Pristina, the capital- as part of the NATO Peace keeping force.
We arrived only a few weeks after the NATO led invasion and it seemed to be a very quick transition from Serb rule to a UN/NATO led state. It seemed that the UN/NATO and the aid agencies had learnt many lessons from earlier conflicts in the Balkans and that a peaceful turnover of power to the Albanian majority could take place.
It has surprised me that it has taken 8 years to get in this position but in the main, i believe an independent Kosovo is the best solution.
But reading through the national and international press, some of the worries that I have are hardly mentioned. Much is made of Serbia and Russia not being happy and that Serbia may man some sort of blockade from the North and East (in reality this will make no great difference to Kosovo- they will just trade with Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria and it will be Serb's who lose out on income). there is also talk of Russia recognising breakaway regions in Georgia and Rumania.
The press also mention that the remaining Serb's will not be happy- that may seem obvious, but in 2000, many of those Serbs who stayed behind- especially in the capital Pristina- were very anti the Serb nationalist Government in Belgrade. Many of those have since left and a majority of those Serbs that are left are very poor or very old, the only real area of Serb influence is in the north in the city of Mitrovica, a city where my former regiment, the Royal Green Jackets were involved policing large Albanian protest at the start of 2000.
My worry is that many of the Albanian leaders will look to increase their own territory- not so much a Greater Albania- as they have little interest in joining Albania but it is the parts of Macedonia that are inhabited by a mainly Albania population and the area where my main worry is the parts of Serbia to the direct east of Kosovo, there is a large Albanian population and right from the start of the withdrawal of the Serb Army in 1999 the Kosovo Liberation army have made raids on that part of Serbia. Many of these attacks seemed to come from the American sector where there seemed very little will of the American commanders to stop the KLA- very unlike the North east where the British put a large amount of

resources into stopping the KLA and keeping the border area under control.
If you look at the map on the BBC News site here, and tick the box above the map to show the percentage of Albanians outside Kosovo and Albania you will see where there may be future trouble spots.
I do believe in independence for Kosovo but NATO must continue to keep a strong presence not only to help protect the Serb minority but also to stop those in the KLA (and possibly CIA!) from using this historic step today as a springboard for future land grabs from Serbia and Macedonia.

Myself in Pristina in 2000.

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