The World from Berlin Kosovo's Independence 'Is a Further Step on a Dangerous Path'

The tiny territory of Kosovo finally declared independence from Serbia on Sunday. But while the newborn country spent the weekend celebrating, the move presents Europeans with just as many problems as it solves. German observers aren't sure what to think.


After years of fruitless negotiations and months of anticipation, the province of Kosovo on Sunday finally declared itself to be an independent state. It is a declaration that surprises no one, and will likely be recognized swiftly by much of the European Union and by the United States.

But even as the newborn country erupted in massive celebrations over the weekend, it is nevertheless a move which may end up creating more problems than it solves. Serbia is understandably outraged. So too is close ally Russia, as are a number of other countries around the world with independence movements of their own to contend with.

But the West too is faced with a difficult problem. Europe is often quick to base foreign policy decisions on rulings made by the United Nations Security Council. Should the EU recognize Kosovo, however, it will be directly countermanding UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999. The resolution explicitly reaffirms "the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other states of the region."

These and other questions are on the minds of German commentators on Monday as they take a look at the independence of Kosovo.

The financial daily Handelsblatt writes:

"Given the current situation, Kosovo's split from Serbia was unavoidable. But it is a further step on a dangerous path to the dissolution of the nation state. While the consequences in Kosovo and in Serbia will likely be less dramatic than feared, the move will have a dangerous effect on a number of regional conflicts the world over."

"It is very possible that Kosovo will not be the final episode in the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. The Bosnian Serbs are also interested in secession (from Bosnia-Herzegovina). And the West will have problems explaining why one is against a Republika Srpska when Kosovo's secession was deemed acceptable. Keeping the artificial state Bosnia-Herzegovina together against the will of the Bosnian Serbs will, in any case, be difficult."

"A simple reference to Kosovo being a unique case and thus not a precedent is, in any case, neither very convincing nor very helpful. Every independence movement claims the right to self-determination and sees itself as the victim of repression at the hands of a central power. The case of Kosovo will encourage all such movements to continue their struggle. There is a good reason why countries with their own separatist movements -- like Spain with the Basques -- had the greatest reservations about the recognition of Kosovo."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The birth of the new country of Kosovo will not be met with elation anywhere in Europe.... First of all, the country's foundation in international law is shaky at best. Second, it is clear that this mini-state, where not even the electricity is reliable, will be dependent on the generosity of the West for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the political consequences for the Balkans are difficult to predict. Already, the Serbs in Bosnia are speaking up and demanding to be incorporated back into the motherland. None of the above are reasons to welcome the seventh country to be born out of the former Yugoslavia -- even if the European Union is hopeful that recognizing Kosovo will finally end a bloody chapter of Balkan history."

"The Albanians in Kosovo are also faced with a difficult debate. When the celebrations have come to an end, it will become clear that money and prosperity don't just fall from the sky and that European investors won't be waiting in line to do business in the Balkans' poorhouse."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"The restoration of any kind of Serbian rule over the Kosovo Albanians was unthinkable because of the discrimination and oppression associated with their rule in the past. A continuation of the status quo, however, would have further impeded the already-backward political and economic development in the poorest region of the former Yugoslavia.

"Seen in this way, Kosovo's decision, in close consultation with major Western governments, in favor of a unilateral proclamation of independence may only be the second-best solution (compared to a UN mandate), but it is also the only correct course. UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari's demands will now become law, even though they are not supported by a UN mandate. The civilian mission of the EU to promote democracy and the rule of law in Kosovo would also be easier if it had a clear mandate from the United Nations. But the EU cannot shirk its responsibility for the region, lying as it does in the heart of Europe. Only the prospect of EU membership offers the new state -- and Serbia itself -- prospects for the future, because it will lead to generous aid pledges, and even cause the newly drawn borders to become less important."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"The new state will remain a precarious project for some time. Even if the majority of EU countries and many other states recognize Kosovo in the next few weeks, there is no magic number of states with whose consent a country can be established under international law. Serbia and Russia will seek to block Kosovo from becoming a member of international organizations.

"But the small country, with its 2.1 million inhabitants, is hardly economically viable on its own. An important objective of independence was to end the uncertainty surrounding Kosovo's status in order to make it attractive to investors. They will only come if there are stable government institutions in the country and Kosovo rapidly introduces European standards. Independence is not an end in itself, but rather the beginning of a long and arduous path."

-- Charles Hawley; 10:45 a.m. CET

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