Balkans: Carving Up Kosovo


March 16,2008: For the last three years NATO has been quietly asking Macedonia and Greece to resolve "the name war" over Macedonia's "legal international name. This has been in the background as NATO prepares to invite Macedonia to join the organization. Greece is, of course, a NATO nation. Greece still officially refers to Macedonia as the FYROM (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) in order to distinguish it from the Greek province of Macedonia. Okay, there is more to it than that. Greece fears that Macedonia (the nation) will try to lay claim to Greek Macedonia. On March 3 NATO encouraged Macedonia to compromise with Greece, since Greece belongs to NATO and Macedonia wants in. Macedonia is considering it, but the issue is a tough one. "The Republic of Macedonia" is the most reasonable name for the nation state.

March 15, 2008: An Albanian ammunition dismantling facility, 10 kilometers north of the capital, exploded. At least five people were killed, and over 240 wounded. Most of the injured were from the 4,000 people living in villages nearby. The army used armored personnel carriers to evacuate some of the civilians, because the explosions threw damaged shells into the area. The army facility was used to destroy old, Cold War era ammo. Albania has about 100,000 tons of the stuff, moldering away in depots all over the country.

March 10, 2008: The European Union told Serbia that Serbia must "make a choice." Serbia can "turn to the European future" or become an isolated nation. This is designed to put more diplomatic pressure on Serbia to accept Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. The EU has a formal "group position" on Kosovo independence, though several EU members (eg, Spain) do not support Kosovo's unilateral independence. However, post-independence riots in Serbia, including an attack on the US embassy, have given Serbia a political black eye. Ethnic Serb rock and bottle-throwing attacks on NATO peacekeepers and UNMIK police facilities along the Serbia-Kosovo border also appear to have backfired politically. The attacks were supposed to demonstrate Serbian resolve. Instead, the attacks were reminiscent of pictures of Serbian gangs operating in eastern Bosnia in 1992.

March 8, 2008: Russian diplomats are once again signaling that the Kremlin wants to partition Kosovo – meaning formally establishing a Serb "state-let" in northern Kosovo. Russia has maintained that in the wake of a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovar Albanians (which has occurred) that Kosovo would divide along ethnic lines, a "de facto partition."

March 6, 2008: Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic, recognized Kosovo's independence. Slovenia became the first former Yugoslav republic to recognize Kosovar independence.

March 3, 2008: The Serbian government claimed that it owns the railroad in northern Kosovo. The Serb state railway announced that it intends to "retake control" of the Kosovo Railways (HK) system north of the town of Zvecan (about 50 kilometers worth of railway line). There are several threads to this; many of the railroad workers in the northern area are ethnic Serbs. Also, the claim reflects Serbia's political stance that Kosovo remains part of Serbia. This is an example of the kind of thorny problems that remain unresolved in the wake of the Kosovo War (1999) and Kosovo's February 2008 unilateral declaration of independence.




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