Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I think European support for Kosovo's independence is sheer madness!  In particular and closest to home, I'm absolutely FURIOUS at the way Italy has lined up with the US/UK/GER/FR on this - we're close enough, Balkan-involved enough, have enough sense-of-history etc etc to know better, practically every serious article/report I've read in this country including on defence forums is queasy-to-put-it-mildly on chain-reaction consequences both short-term and longer-term so WHY is Italy-too backing this dangerous idiocy?  If the Balkans explode again we'll be in it up to our necks one way or another - even from the most crudely self-interested POV no question that consequent-conflict refugee-flows, provision of peacekeepers, aid etcetc will end up costing us a packet ... so why provoke fate?

Take a look at this opinion-polls on Kosovan independence in Corriere della Sera -

Will the independence of Kosovo threaten stability in the Balkans? (14th Feb.)
Yes: 66.4%
No:  33.6%

So the only rational explanation I can find for Italy pursuing a national policy so out of line with both national brain-knowledge and national gut-instinct is that this "alignment" performance on its part is 1) a sop consisting of "showing a face of unity" to counterbalance Western(TM) disapproval of Italian thin-ice ranks-breaking re non-hostile relations with Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas ... plus 2) some form of unmentionable behind-the-scenes calculation regarding preservation of Italy's weird n' scraggy lil' "special relationship" with pet ugly-duckling Albania?  

Yech! :-(

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Sun Feb 17th, 2008 at 03:28:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is more than that. it is a demonstration that small countries in Europe are prey, and the European Union is a joke.

Suppose that Germany and other countries stated their opposition to the declaration of independence. That would certainly open the way to the entrance of Serbia to the EU.
That would mean full opening their markets to products from Germany et al. But no, Serebia must be on her knees; cut a little here and cut a little there.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sun Feb 17th, 2008 at 05:11:43 PM EST
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If one wants a continent without borders, with peaceful coexistence among different people, why creating another?

(it may look ridiculous that one replies to himself, but i am just adding a sentence which comes close to the kernel of the issue.)

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sun Feb 17th, 2008 at 05:26:54 PM EST
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The problem occurred in 1999.

After Rambouillet, this was the only possible result.

Kosovo is punishment to the Serbs for Bosnia.

There's no other way around it.

The fighting in Kosovo never needed to happen. Peace was in the offing. The EU and NATO chose the Kosovo Albanian side in 1999. Everything that came after is inevitability. The idea that Kosovo could exist inside Serbia is almost preposterous. A war is SURE to happen if the Albanians didn't get Kosovo, and that war would suck in Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, maybe even Albania.

That's why this is happening. They are choosing the possibility of trouble over certain trouble.

Unfortunately, our diplomats made this mess themselves, but they don't have the means to clean it up. In many ways, Kosovo was prelude to Iraq.

by Upstate NY on Sun Feb 17th, 2008 at 07:26:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A war is SURE to happen if the Albanians didn't get Kosovo

Actually the "realistic" alternatives were there: a parition of Kosovo, in which the Northern tip of Kosovo remained in Serbia, was feasible but for the fact that the Kosovo Albanian side had no incentive to negotiate as it knew that the West would back up full independence without any need to make any territorial sacrifices.

Also it would be conceivable under different circumstances that a general peripheral agreement could be reached, that would include Bosnia, and the whole W.Balkans, guaranteeing among other things the free return of all refugees and funds for return or relocation (a vastly better allocation of EU money than the current situation)...

BTW I'm not sure how adamant Greece will be regarding the recognition of Kosovo. There is talk that Greece has very good relations with the Albanian parties in the Republic of Macedonia and given that for some bizzare reason the issue of our Northern Neighbour's name is seen as a major national threat, there might be some sort of quid pro quo there - although given Turkish occupation of N. Cyprus that would be suicidal IMHO.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 07:01:04 AM EST
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Just to go completely off a tangent, why does Greece have a problem with Macedonia? Is it just purile posturing, or is there a point buried somewhere that I fail to grasp?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 07:06:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thessaloniki is in Greek Macedonia. There's some fear that the Yugoslavian one may some day claim some of the Greek one. I've no idea if there's any real foundation to these fears.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 07:10:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's 90% posturing and 10% substance. There was a nationalist frenzy in the 1990s (government induced but also some sort post-cold war national panic) regarding the fact that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia wanted to be known as Republic of Macedonia - this led to a very widespread (and toxic) nationalist discourse that has made it very costly politically for any Greek government to accept even a compound name for RoM (i.e. Northern Macedonia, Upper Macedonia, New Macedonia).

However, there are some marginal real issues here, minor ones that could be settled with some goodwill, such as irredentism in the RoM (a political minority but firmly entrenched in school curricula and public discourse there) and product names (all things exported as "Macedonian" from Greece, or public institutions would be forced to change their name if there is no other arrangement).

Both of these issues could be settled by no more that a month's sincere discussions, and some sort of arbitration from the EU - but positions are entrenched now and both countries will have a hard time bargaining... So the whole thing degenerates into discussing the "nationality" of Alexander the Great instead...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 07:38:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the clarification.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 07:43:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When Oliver Stone's Alexander came out, there were endless arguments about Alexander's nationality and Macedonian heritage on the Internet Movie Database disussion boards. These arguments in turn degenerated into online fistfights between Greek and FYROM nationalists -- a Greek would post an inpenetrably dense chunk from a 'historical' essay lifted from a propaganda website (with a name like macedoniafacts.com or macedoniatruth.org), followed by an FYR-Macedonian doing likewise (also from websites with names like macedoniafacts.com or macedoniatruth.org), repeated ad nauseum.

The people posting these screeds actually thought that they could change peoples' opinions this way, when for outsiders it was a perfect hall of mirrors of fanatical nationalism and mythologised history, each side asserting that their people had lived in Macedonia in unbroken historical continuity for thousands of years while the other lot were recent interlopers, with everything the same on both sides except for the names...

by Gag Halfrunt on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 08:48:58 AM EST
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Believe it or not, it gets much worse than mythologized history. So much of the problem is recent.

You have Greeks in the Macedonia region who are themselves refugees from either the Ottoman Empire or the Soviet Union. They moved en masse to the region while at the same time Pomaks and Bulgars and Slav speaking Greeks were moved out (for many reasons, losses from Balkan Wars, siding with the Nazis, or also aiding the Communists for the Greek civil war). Karaskidou's book Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood does a pretty good job of showing the ethnic mix over the last century in this area. Outside of Greece, Albanians and Macedonians are aggrieved for land losses. Meanwhile, inside of Greece, you have Greeks aggrieved for their own land losses elsewhere. Plus, ww2 and the civil war were not only "cause" for expulsion of other ethnic groups, but a good number of Greeks as well (such as my uncle, a 12 year old drafted into the ranks of the guerillas, he lived in the Eastern Bloc up until the early 1990s). This is why Greek sentiment is so adamant about the Greek part of Macedonia. It's a rather recent addition to Greece, and it was gained through much bloodshed in Balkan Wars, WW2 (against Germany, Bulgaria, Albania, Italy, 1 million Greeks died), and the Civil War.

In Macedonia, meanwhile, you have a national crisis right now because former Macedonian Presidents have become Bulgarian citizens and moved to Bulgaria, as have a great many young people, which further fuels Bulgarian arguments that Macedonians are simply Bulgarians converted to a national mythology by Tito. Ultimately, I think all this mixing speaks to our tenuous identities and the bankruptcy of romantic nationalism. Let them call themselves whatever they wish, whoever they think they are, but maybe to avoid future bloodshed a distinction could be made between Greek Macedonia and whatever. New Macedonia as the US recently proposed?

by Upstate NY on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 09:49:46 AM EST
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