Oh, those Balkans again!
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Dec 11, 2007, 00:20
ROME -- The failure of the mediation of
USA, Russia and the European Union for a solution to Kosovo�s demands for
secession from Serbia has the USA at loggerheads with both Russia and the EU
about how to handle the new Balkan crisis.
Washington supports Kosovo separation and independence from
Serbia, Russia supports the integrity of Serbia, and the EU prefers
continuation of its peacekeeping role there to avoid another eruption of
After Italian Premier Romano Prodi�s warning that �Kosovo
could again become a hell,� NATO, meeting in Brussels this Monday on the Kosovo
issue, is ready to bolster its 16,000-man peacekeeping force there. The
governments in Rome, Paris, London and Berlin have warned the rest of Europe
that the period of negotiations is over and that action in the Kosovo question
is necessary, even without UN approval.
The USA is backing independence for turbulent Kosovo, with
its 2,2 million people, 92 percent of whom are Albanians, and which has the
unenviable record of being the poorest country in Europe. Condoleeza Rice
warned that one should not ignore the reality of the rupture of relations
between Belgrade, the Serbian capital, and Pristina, the capital city of the
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated Moscow�s
support for Serbia and called for further negotiations. Backed by Spain, Lavrov
labeled the declaration of independence of the newly elected Kosovo government from
Serbia �a violation of international laws� and �a dangerous precedent.� He
warned that in such an eventuality Moscow would react in accordance to
Thus far, the Serbs have been the bad guys of Europe, guilty
of massacres and atrocities against the Albanian population of its
administrative region of Kosovo during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Kosovo
however is the traditional home of the southern Slavs, hallowed ground for
Serbians who feel about the region as some Americans to the 13 original
On the other hand Serbia, close to Italy in life style and
culture, is largely as Europe-oriented as is Croatia, ready to enter the
European Union. Its economy is strong, 5-6 percent annual growth though
battling against 24 percent unemployment. Serbia, the former center of
Communist Yugoslavia, has had to surrender all of ex-Yugoslavia�s former
republics, from Montenegro to Bosnia. It suffered the NATO bombing of Belgrade
in 1999 and is the only country in the world that surrendered its chief of
state, Milosevic, to the international court in The Hague where he subsequently
died in a cell.
Now the USA demands it surrender also Kosovo, the center of
national memory and religion.
Apparently the USA wants to rush Kosovo�s independence in
order to withdraw its men and equipment from the Balkan stall and use them
elsewhere. Europe is wiser. Its memory is longer. The Balkans call up sinister
memories of a Serbian nationalist who in nearby Sarajevo assassinated the
Hapsburg Crown Prince igniting World War I. Slow down events, stop and stall is
the European watchword.
Serbia still suffers the syndrome of isolation and
scapegoat. Belgrade fears internal problems if Kosovo, too, goes. Is membership
in the European Union worth it, Serbs wonder? Their future seems cloudy. Even
the Mediterranean Union proposed by France looks more toward African shores
than toward the Adriatic Sea.
The alternative scenario seems more concrete to Serbs:
Russia. Russia has always had a thing about the southern Slavs. The dream of a
union of the Slavs. Russia already controls Serbian and Montenegrin industries,
airlines and hotels. With US help Moscow can tuck Serbia neatly back in the
So once again Serbia, striving for the West but lured by the
East, stands at a crossroads between Moscow and Washington, and this time with
the complicating factor of its desire to enter the European Union. Yet any
unilateral recognition of Kosovo independence would carry the Balkans backwards
in time even though relations between Serbia and its Albanian minority in
Kosovo are dead.
Europe is more careful this time than in 1991 when the only
war in Europe in 60 years risked spreading. The fear is that as usual for
America history is yesterday.
Stewart is originally from Asheville, NC. He has lived his adult life in
Germany and Italy, alternated with residences in The Netherlands, France,
Mexico, Argentina and Russia. After a career in journalism as a
correspondent for the Rotterdam newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad, he began writing
fiction. His collections of short stories, "Icy Current Compulsive Course,
To Be A Stranger" and "Once In Berlin" are published by Wind
River Press. His new novel, "Asheville," is published by www.Wastelandrunes.com He lives with
his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail: email@example.com.
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