Archive for March 3rd, 2012

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European Commission, Kosovo and implications for Ukraine

March 3, 2012

Now this post may seem to have very little to do with Ukraine at first glance.  Indeed you may think it is one of those rare occasions where I ruminate over an issue that is not connected to Ukraine.

You would however be wrong.

Here is a communique made by Baroness Ashton after a meeting with the Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.  A meeting that came the day after it became clear that Serbia would be offered EU candidate status and eventual EU membership.

Now the Balkans are not my strong suit.  For those who really have an interest in the political and policy matters of the Balkans, I would suggest you start your reading at the website of a Charles Crawford, who happens to be a very smart and insightful chap when it comes to matters of that region.  He also happens to write exceptionally well and is an acquaintance of mine for whom I have a great deal of respect.

Reading through the communique, there are of course immediate issues relating to what has been said by the European Commission to Kosovo.  Please note I say European Commission and not the EU for reasons we will now come on to.

This paragraph is extremely interesting:  “In my discussions today with Prime Minister Thaci I have reiterated the EU’s wish to see Kosovo moving even closer to the European Union. We have a rich year ahead of us in EU – Kosovo relations: the feasibility study, the visa dialogue, trade agreement, participation of Kosovo in EU programmes and hopefully EBRD membership.”

Let us take EBRD membership, visa dialogue and trade as the core issues.  How can any of these happen when Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania and Greece do not recognise Kosovo?  That is 18.5% of the EU Member States who simply do not officially recognise Kosovo as an independent state.  Ergo that is 5 potential veto’s on anything the European Commission tries to get past the European Parliament and the European Council relating to Kosovo.

If you don’t know how the EU works, click here for my explanation.  Suffice to say the European Commission saying one thing does not necessarily work out that way.  In fact quite often it doesn’t work out at all!

How can Kosovo enjoy any form of visa relations with the EU or even the smaller Schengen Area, if Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania and Greece do not recognise Kosovo and therefore a Kosovan passport?

The same applies to “Made in Kosovo” in relation to trade for these nations when it comes to imports from Kosovo.

You must ask then, why these nations would allow Kosovo EBRD membership and access to the meager funds these nations put into the EBRD to then be allowed to be used in a nation they officially state does not exist.

Why do these nations refuse to recognise Kosovo?  Well Kosovo is born from the brutal break up and fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia as we all know.  However the 5 nations who do not recognise Kosovo all have bubbling away their own internal separatist regions or historical reasons not to recognise its division from Serbia.  Cyprus is in effect already split and reuniting the island seems as far away as ever.  Spain has the Basque region etc.

Even if Serbia recognises Kosovo as a sovereign nation state in the same manner it does Ukraine across all international bodies and international norms, the precedent any similar formal recognition from Cyprus or Spain would increase the  resolve of those within their existing boundaries  for self-determination.  Not good from Spanish or Cypriot perspectives.

Ukraine does not recognise Kosovo either and for the same reasons as Spain.

Ukraine already includes The Autonomous Republic of Crimea.  Crimea has its own parliament.  Crimea has its own constitution.  Crimea has its own very distinct history from Ukraine.  It has its own ethnic native Tartar community.    Should there be a massive ground-swell for self-determination amongst the Crimean public then Crimea quite possibly has a better claim to sovereignty and self-determination than Kosovo and certainly equal to that of the Basque region in Spain.

How the European Commission think they can change the views of Spain and Cyprus in particular with regard to Kosovo, I am unsure.  What is certain, is that trying to bully 5 nations into changing their views is far harder than bullying a single state, and that is especially so when some of those states fear the internal consequences of any external Kosovan recognition.

This will undoubtedly be an issue monitored from Kyiv with Crimea as the backdrop as the European Commission’s stance, or indeed the eventual stance of the EU, may well have serious implications for Ukraine in the years ahead.

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