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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Kosove proclaims independence, sovereignty remains unclear

After years of warfare, violence and ethnic tension, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February, 2008, in a unanimous decision. Independence has been an ongoing goal for Kosovo.

After previously failed attempts at independence, several powerful nations in the international community, including members of the European Union and countries with permanent seats on the UN Security Council, have recognized Kosovo as a republic.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are countries that refuse to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence.

Serbia refuses to recognize the new republic. Serbians make up only 10 percent of Kosovo’s population, but according to Assistant Professor of History Philip Slaby, Kosovo is an important province for Serbs.

“Kosovo is hallowed ground and a sacred place for the Serbian nation,” Slaby said.

Both Albanians and Serbs approach Kosovo with strong senses of nationalism, adding to tensions between the two groups.

Kosovo’s history is marred by strife between the Albanians and the Serbs, the motivation behind the Kosovo Civil War from 1998-1999, as well as the ongoing ethnic violence that plagues the area. Tensions between the Albanians and the Serbs are the result of several factors.

“The Albanians have different social structures, language and religion,” Slaby said. “If you look at the civil wars, religion played a big part.”

Further strife has been the result of politics and policy in Kosovo that reduced the rights of Albanians.

The last two decades has seen a rise in political tensions, particularly in the 1980s when Serbian Nationalist Slobodan Milosevi? came to power and took away Kosovo’s autonomy and suppressed Albanian culture.

Tensions erupted again in 1998 when the Kosovo Civil War broke out, displacing 700,000 Kosovar Albanians and killing 10,000 more.

“The Albanians feel they’ve been kicked around,” Slaby said. “They believe it’s their land, they’ve built it up. But both can make that claim.”

The claim to Kosovo, held by both Albanians and Serbs, has caused different interpretations of the newly declared independence and has inspired fierce opinions regarding Kosovo’s sovereignty.

In Kosovo, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci sees the new democracy as a step away from the past.

Thaci said to BBC News, “The independence of Kosovo marks the end of the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, (and Kosovo is now) proud, independent and free.”

Kosovo’s independence was also marked by international celebrations. The BBC News reported joyful celebrations thrown by Albanians in Skopje, Macedonia, and outside the headquarters of NATO and the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.

Other Albanians feel a sense of relief with their new independence.

Antoneta Kastrati, a twenty-six year old whose mother and sister were murdered in 1999 by neighboring Serbs, said to The New York Times, “We cannot forget the past, but maybe I will feel safe now and my nightmares will finally go away.”

For Serbs, the feelings are very different. In Belgrade, Serbia, protestors attacked a McDonalds, the Slovenian embassy and set fire to the American Embassy.

According to The New York Times, Serbian Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, refuses to accept Kosovo, referring to it as a “false state.”

Sophomore Airlie Parham, president and co-founder of G-Peace, a campus activist group at Guilford, is concerned about the violence that has resulted from Kosovo’s independence.

“Kosovo is a cultural and religious center for Serbs. If there are two things that always create war it’s economics and religion. This is going to fuel further strife,” Parham said.

Kosovo’s independence has created discourse outside of the Balkans as well. Numerous nations either have or haven’t recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty, causing friction throughout the international community and possible future problems for Kosovo when they try for UN membership.

“Russia and China will veto any attempt to allow Kosovo membership in the UN. So, that’s a dead issue at the UN,” said Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science Ken Gilmore. “Without UN membership, I’m not sure you can declare Kosovo a sovereign country.”

Even if Kosovo gets sovereignty, Gilmore is skeptical of whether the state will be a true democracy.

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci promised to protect the rights of the Serbian minority, but Gilmore thinks otherwise.

“These are not democrats. Kosovars want to set up a government that represents only Albanian interests,” Gilmore said.

In the mean time, the Balkans, a historically volatile area, face destabilization; more nations are coming out either in support or opposition of Kosovo, and the new nation’s sovereignty remains unclear.

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