Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bloody hell I agree with George Bush on one thing at least

The Girl and I had the pleasure of spending a week in Kosovo last month. We found a country that, although still bearing some scars of the 1999 war and the ethnic violence that both preceded and followed it, was both beautiful and welcoming. The mountains are simply breathtaking, and observing a mass at the 13th Century Visoki Decani Monastery was, even for this committed heathen, a spine tingling experience. Its just a shame that to get to the monastery we had to talk our way past the company of Italian troops that protect it from the local Kosova Albanians. Those troops are a symbol of Kosovo's ongoing problem IMO. It won't fully move on from its violent and divisive past until its future is settled.

Currently Kosovo remains in a legal limbo. Administered by the UN, policed in the last resort by NATO troops, but still legally part of Serbia. This limbo manifests in many little ways, the mobile phone system is an extension of Monaco's, the majority of Kosovas can't get passports and have to rely on UN travel documents that many countries won't recognise. The official economy (official unemployment runs at something like 70%) and the growth of good governance are stifled by the uncertainty, leaving room for the growth of the black economy, gangsterism and worse.

Kosovo has the opportunity to become a stable, modern, moderate, majority muslim country in the heart of Europe. If we don't act to secure its future soon, we risk it sliding towards sectarianism, extremism and violence.

That's why I agree with George Bush that the world community should push on to granting Kosovo its independence, notwithstanding Serbian and Russian objections. I am aware of the place that Kosovo and Methoia holds in Serbian culture, in terms of being in some ways the birthplace of their nation. But realistically Kosovo is never practically going to be part of Serbia again, and the continuing uncertainty only helps to maintain the ongoing tensions between ethnic Serbs and Albanians. Independence and progress, or continuing uncertainty and a slow decline appear to be the only options now.

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