Balkans: France and Turkey Make Nice


February 19, 2009: Many Europeans are not so sure that supporting Kosovo independence was the right thing to do. Most European nations have ethnic minorities that are concentrated in one part of the country. A few of these ethnic enclaves contain activists who agitate for independence. Kosovo is seen as the first step down a log road of ethnic separatism and rebellions. Time will tell.

February 17, 2009: It has been one exactly year since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia – on February 17, 2008. Since that declaration around 54 countries have recognized its independence. Serbia, however, has not, nor has Russia. Kosovo certainly has the trappings of a nation state. Kosovo issues its own passports and has its own small defense formation, the Kosovo Security Force (KSF). The KSF has 2500 people with another 500 reservists. NATO is “mentoring” the KSF and the plan is to bring it up to NATO equipment and operational standards--eventually.

But Kosovo’s “final status” really hasn’t been finalized. Serbia and Russia do not recognize Kosovo’s independence and Russia is in muscle-flexing mode. Serbia asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule on the legitimacy of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and the UN General Assembly approved Serbia’s request. That doesn’t mean Serbia will get a reversal but it does suggest Serbia is making a diplomatic case. The ICJ inquiry may take two years, so don’t expect a decision soon. Serbia and Russia still seek some sort of compromise on Kosovo’s “final status” regarding Kosovar Serbs. Around 125,000 Kosovar Serbs still live in “independent” Kosovo, most in enclaves in the north (Mitrovica area) but there are scattered Kosvar Serb communities around the country. Kosovar Serbs do not allow the KSF to deploy into their neighborhoods; it is a gambit intended to show that the Kosovo government does not control all of Kosovo. NATO, however, still has around 15,000 troops serving with its KFOR peacekeeping force. They can go where they want to go. Conceivably NATO could bring the KSF along with them. That risks inciting Kosovar Serbs and angering Russia.

February 14, 2009: Greece and Macedonia continue to fight “the name war.” Greece officially insists that Macedonia call itself the FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). However, negotiations will resume later this year.

February 13, 2009: Serbia said that the first anniversary of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is “irrelevant.”

The German government said that its peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo would give Kosovo’s new Kosovo Security Force (KSF) 200 vehicles (buses, trucks, and trailers). Kosovar Serbs continue to protest the existence of the KSF. In late January, the government of Serbia claimed the establishment of the KSF violated international law and a “flagrant” violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The Serbs describe the KSF as a “paramilitary organization.”

February 11, 2009: France’s return to NATO’s military structures may be a problem and an opportunity for Turkey. France, in Turkey’s view, and Greece have consistently undermined Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. Turkey is a full NATO member and served as a “front line” state during the Cold War. France –buffered by then West Germany—pulled back from full military cooperation. That memory lingers. Turkey also notes that France is constantly pushing for increased EU security cooperation. Turkey (excluded so far from the EU) sees this as potentially undermining NATO military cooperation. Turkey has no say in European Union defense policy. Still, Turkey knows a diplomatic opportunity when it sees one. Increased French participation in NATO could signal a softening in France’s stance toward Turkey, which already uses its NATO membership as a means of retaliating against Cyprus (ie, the Greek-dominated government of Cyprus which is an EU member) when it tosses up roadblocks to Turkish membership in the EU. Turkey tries to prevent Greek Cypriot use of “NATO assets” (equipment, information, logistical support, etc) when Cyprus engages in EU operations that –guess what—require the use of NATO assets.

February 6, 2009: EU peacekeepers operating in Bosnia have renewed the search for Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leader accused of committing war crimes, among the mass murder of Bosniak men and boys in Srebenica. A spokesman for the peacekeepers reported several raids on homes of Mladic relatives located near Sarajevo, Bosnia.

February 5, 2009: Farmer protests continue in Bulgaria and Greece and “sympathetic” strikes are occurring throughout Europe. Greek dairy farmers are protesting a drop in milk prices. Other farmers are demanding renewed price supports. The Greek government is making promises but remains wary of any mass protest since the weeks of protest spawned by the killing of a young Greek man by Greek police. Radicals in Greece continue to threaten “months and years” of demonstrations. The protests are largely over the corruption (much reduced in the last decade) that still pervades Greek life, and the damage the corrupt practices do to the economy.

February 3, 2009: The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) has settled a major boundary dispute between Romania and Ukraine. The ICJ has drawn a “single maritime boundary” in a portion of the Black Sea claimed by both nations. More is at stake than fishing. Part of the zone shows great potential for natural gas and oil wells. The case was submitted for resolution in 2004, and both governments have said they will abide by the court’s decision. Border “adjustments” by the Soviet Union after World War 2 were the immediate cause of the dispute. The USSR simply drew the borders where it wanted to draw the borders. However, Romania has had Black Sea maritime boundary disputes with its neighbors pre-dating World War 2. This time no one wants to go to war over and island or an oil field. As it is, developing the oil and gas reserves will take cash and cooperation.





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