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Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia has divided opinion. Instinctively I find myself siding with those whose desire for self-determination has led this newborn country to unilaterally take its first steps while the EU holds its hands and some EU members states stand a few paces away holding out their arms and encouraging it to walk towards them. For others, however, the declaration of independence and, worse, its recognition by the treacherous United States and Britain, is a travesty of the greatest proportions.

As far as I can see the objectors to the independence of Kosovo depend on these arguments:

  1.   Self-determination of peoples is in general a bad thing.  In the particular case of Kosovo it may lead to a precedent being set for other regions in Europe seeking autonomy.  A particular fear is that the quasi-state that occupies the Northern part of Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, may be inclined to take similar steps leading to permanent partition of Cyprus.  Spain and Russia have fears that they may lose part of their territory to secessionists.
  2.   Even if self-determination may in some cases be a good thing (and, notably, was a good thing in relation to the destruction of the British Empire and the creation of independent states in its place), self-determination in respect of Kosovo is unlawful because a UN resolution (signed by the usual signatories including the Big Five) specifically stated that the territorial integrity of Serbia must be respected.
  3.   Even if there is a legal argument that the UN Resolution does not preclude independence, then it is morally wrong to reward the ethnic Albanians for their appalling ethnic cleansing of the Serbian population.
  4.   It is also morally wrong to reward the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the newly declared Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, for the role in terrible atrocities and violence against the Serbian minority.
  5.   Even if these last two objections can be overcome, it is extremely unwise to allow the ethnic Albanians autonomy because they are generally, and their leaders are specifically (a) Muslims and (b) in league with Osama Bin Laden and (c) corrupt and part of the Mafia and (d) drug traffickers.

Clearly it is impossible to overcome all those objections.  For whilst there are easy, sensible, rational arguments to deal with 1 and 2, and 3 might be addressed by reference to the hopes of the ordinary people in Kosovo and the young people in particular, and 4 might be dealt with by remembering other nations which were born out of foment and whose leaders had previously resorted to violence in pursuit of their political aims but where the a new peace had grown out of the ashes of discord and terrorists had become moderate politicians (Northern Ireland springs to mind), there is really nothing that will answer the fifth argument. 

This final basket of prejudices is so deep-seated and so tied up with the ethnic identity and religious faith of the objectors, that it would take a braver woman than I am to confront the anger and aggression that disagreement provokes.If feelings ran less high and opinions were less entrenched, I would wish to ask those who object to the declaration of independence what they would have wanted to happen.  Except I already know the answer.

They would have wanted the territory currently occupied by a majority of ethnic Albanians to become a majority Serbian province within Greater Serbia, so that the Muslim ethnic Albanians became a minority.  They would want to roll history back about a hundred years to the time when there was no ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo.  Presumably all the ethnic Albanians would be expected to move over the border into Albania.  This sounds like very polite ethnic cleansing to me, though I doubt it would be polite or bloodless were it ever allowed to come about.

Recognising that these are indeed the wishes of Serbia and those who support her, I am confirmed in my belief that independence was the only option for the ordinary people of Kosova.

Guardian videos

Serb demonstrations against independence

Joyful celebrations of independence 

Interactive history of Kosovo 

From official census data of the Kingdom of Serbia, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Year Total number     Ethnic composition (%)  
    Albanian Serb Montenegrin Turkish Muslim Other
1913 497,456            
1921 439,010 65.8 26.0   6.4  
1931 552,064 60.0 32.6       7.4
1948 733,034            
1953 815,908            
1961 963,988 67.2 23.6 3.9 2.7 0.8 1.2
1971 1,243,393 73.7 18.4 2.5 1.0 2.1 2.0
1981 1,588,400 77.5 13.2 1.7 0.8 3.7 4.1
1991* 2,000,000 90.0 8.0       2.0


* the data for 1991 is estimated, the census of that year was boycotted by the Albanian population.

Sources: Musa Limani, The Geographic Position, Natural Riches, Demographic Characteristics, and the Economical Development of Kosova (Prishtina, Kosova: The Association of Lawyers of Kosova, 1992); Miranda Vickers, Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

For some people the day comes
when they have to declare the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
ready within him; and saying it,
he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
he’d still say no. Yet that no-the right no-
drags him down all his life.