Kosovo-Test Tube Baby
So Kosovo declares its independence supported by much of the West and not recognised by much of Eastern Europe. There's been a lot said about this matter, and in truth time will tell whether this proves to be a defining moment in world history for what makes an independent country today?
Why can Kosovo-an Albanian majority territory in Serbia declare independence when Chechnya (a Muslim majority territory in Russia) cannot? Why can't the Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iran and Iraq declare independence? Why won't the world recognise Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia or South Ossetia? What about those in Nagorno-Karabakh?
There are clear inconsistencies in the way these matters are handled in the aforementioned territories. The Turkish majority portion of Cyprus aside, the vast majority of people in those areas would like their independence (I think the Turks in Cyprus would like re-unification, but I'll stand corrected), but the world will not recognise it, primarily due to 'territorial integrity.' If Country X recognised a breakaway region of Country Y, what's to stop an autonomous region in Country X from declaring independence and being recognised by Country Y? Its all self-preservation really. The maintenance of the status quo.
The maintenance of the status quo is one reason countries with recalcitrant regions will not recognise Kosovo. Otherwise, they'll have to give up their territorial integrity. Spain and Cyprus are two such democratic countries who probably sympathise greatly with the Kosovars and what they have gone through, but if they recognise its independence, will have no foot to stand on when Northern Cyprus, Catalonia and the Basque Country decide to go their own way.
Pandora's Box is now open. Present-day belligerent Russia is already threatening to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia-will the West recognise the will of the people there to be independent from Georgia? Georgia is a friend of the West, as is Kosovo, and the parallels between Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Kosovo is startling in that their de facto rulers (Serbia and Georgia) have no control, and can have no control over these regions. The EU/UN (Kosovo) and Russia (in Abkhazia/South Ossetia) have the power there, so why not? Fair's fair, innit?
The Serbs in Bosnia, the Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Turkey, the Turks in Northern Cyprus and the less obvious case of separatists in Spain do have to contend with a smaller power base-like the case of Chechnya, independence for them is a case of an unrealised dream in the long-run, for as long as they cannot be the powerful force in their own territory or have the unconditional backing of a large regional or superpower.
Independence for small territories is all about the self-interest of the larger powers. The oppressed Kurds of Turkey, Iran and Iraq will not get their homeland because the powers that be will never allow it-including the so-called democracies of the West. But Kosovo fitted in beautifully with their self-interest. Back in 1999 Russia was a basket case, and could be safely ignored. The toppling of Slobodan Milosevic became a reality, and Serbia was ruined. The West was able to tell the media that peace and stability and justice will reign supreme in the Balkans. But the fundamental issues governing the economy and jobs, democracy and human rights, and the fundamental workings of the principle of 'territorial integrity' were never really addressed. And so we find ourselves in a conundrum-if Kosovo can be independent, where do we draw the line? Do we behave consistently, or inconsistently? Do we write and re-write the rules as we go along? Do we just ignore the rules?
Maybe what we need is an international charter of human rights that is both enforceable and inviolable. One that says that the basic rights of minorities must not just be stated but applied, with swift punishment taken against intransigent countries. Then The Albanians in Serbia (based mainly in Kosovo) would not have been marginalised, leaving a festering sore that led to independence. In a sense, Serbia has every right to complain about how this has occurred; in another sense, Serbia is the mastermind of its own undoing.
Minorities everywhere must be respected-even then it may not be possible to avoid breaking up a country (Czech/Slovakia for example, and maybe one day Quebec/Canada). But we need a fire-proof, transparent legal document that makes clear what a sovereign country must do to keep minorities part of the wider community-failure to carry out these tasks should lead to a breakaway being recognised.
Then again, pigs may fly...