Just when you thought the situation in Kosovo couldn't become more complicated, Serbian voters approve a new constitution that reaffirms Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo. What does it all mean? James Bissett, Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1990 to 1992, explains in the Canadian Globe and Mail (subscription required).
For one thing, Western powers are now impotent when it comes to granting independence to the troubled province because doing so without Serbia's approval would violate the U.N. Charter on territorial integrity and the inviolability of borders, says the author. Regardless, Martti Ahtisaari, U.N. special envoy to the region, will recommend that Kosovo is granted its independence status.
Independence "would be a mistake," says Bissett, and the reasons are numerous: Kosovo is the main hub on the continent for heroin and human trafficking into Western Europe, living standards are comparable to those of Haiti, abductions and murder of non-Albanian citizens happen on a daily basis, and civil society is practically non-existent.
To make things worse, the actions of the U.N. and NATO have been marked by "duplicity, double standards and cowardice," asserts the author. One example he gives is the U.N.'s failure to honour one of its own stipulations from 1999: reasserting Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo.
Ultimately, granting independence to Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent, concludes Bissett, citing Russian President Vladimir Putin who has already hinted that if the West pushes for a Kosovo that is no longer formally part of Serbia, he might encourage other pro-Russian regions to go down the same route. The recent vote in Serbia could be a "dangerous illusion" for Serbs in Kosovo, Britain's Guardian warns. It could lead them to believe that their "amputation" from Serbia can be prevented -- and may encourage them to try to force partition within Kosovo, perhaps triggering violence and a mass exodus.