Kosovo: waiting for the ICJ

So Kosovo and Serbia are now waiting for the International Court of Justice to rule on whether Kosovo is independent or not.

Except, not really.

Back in October 2008, the new Government of Serbia asked the ICJ to rule on whether Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence (“UDI”) in March 2008 was legal. This was clever in several ways. Internally, the new, relatively liberal and pro-Western Serbian governmnent shored up its flank against certain sorts of nationalist attack. Externally, it showed Serbia being a good, reasonable international citizen by submitting its problem to the highest body of international justice. And tactically, it invited the Court to rule on a narrow issue — was the UDI, done in that way at that time, legal? — rather than the much broader and more fraught question of whether Kosovar independence itself could be legal.

The case went before the Court for several days in December of 2009, with 25 countries submitting oral or written testimony. A decision is expected in summer.

But here’s the thing:the ICJ is very unlikely to deliver a clear opinion.

Think about it. On the broad issue of independence… well, a strong decision either way would be very, very disruptive. And the ICJ historically has not shown itself an agent of disruption. (Yes, there are a couple of exceptions. But they’re just that: exceptions.) An opinion saying clearly that Kosovo could or could not secede would have immediate knock-on effects in a dozen places around the world: Somaliland, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, North Cyprus, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, you name it. There aren’t a lot of issues more potentially explosive than ethnic self-determination, and that’s what Kosovo is all about.

It is theoretically possible that the Court could come up with a clear and strong opinion while trying to restrict it to the unique facts of this particular case. I don’t think that’s likely, but I don’t think it’s quite impossible either. Let’s say there’s one chance in twenty for that.

So what to expect? Well, I’m not an expert on the ICJ. But my best guess would be

1) a long, rambling, weasel-worded decision that does not arrive at a clear conclusion;

and/or

2) a statement that the UDI of March 2008 was defective on procedural grounds, without stating whether a UDI could ever be effective or not.

— I’d actually be sympathetic to (1), because I think the Court is in a really tough situation here. (2) would be stupid and dangerous. It would be telling the Kosovar Albanians to go back and start over after two+ years of handling their own affairs, which is unlikely to go down well. Meanwhile it would invite the Serbs to bring the same issue back to the Court again after the inevitable second UDI. So, no more than a delaying tactic, and a costly one. I hope they don’t go there.

I note in passing that of the fifteen judges on the Court, seven are from countries that have recognized Kosovo and eight are from countries that have not.

— Speaking of which: the current recognition-count for Kosovo stands at 65. That’s a bit more than I thought they’d get (I predicted “between 50 and 60”). New recognitions have slowed down to around one every month or two. If the ICJ opinion is very mushy, Kosovo might pick up a handful of fence-sitters this summer. If it’s strong against them — unlikely but possible — they might lose a few. It’s hard and embarrassing to reverse a recognition, though, so even with a strong opinion that number is not likely to be large.

There are 192 members in the UN, so Kosovo is now just past the one-third mark. The next landmark would be 92 recognitions, a majority. But I think that’s very unlikely for a long time to come.

114 thoughts on “Kosovo: waiting for the ICJ

  1. “Haha”, that’s three comments in a row that consist of nothing but a link. The purpose of comment threads is to comment and to discuss, not to provide an endless string of links to sites supporting “your” side.

    …I don’t know: are these threads getting worse in general, or does this just happen to be a particularly bad one?

    Anyway: while any thread about the Balkans is likely to ramble, it would be nice if we could stay within shouting distance of the original topic. “Alija Izetbegovic was a Nazi jihadist who kissed Bin Laden!” might be relevant in a thread about Bosnia, but wrt Kosovo it’s just annoying.

    Doug M.

  2. Sorry for going so far off topic. My bad. 🙂

    Just to finish though – I wouldn’t necessarily blame the Balkan religious institutions for the war, though they didn’t comport themselves in an especially morally upright manner during the time. But the religious philosophy and practice is certainly mild – by comparison to, say, evangelical Christians in teh United States or certain strains of Orthodox Judaism in Israel. You know as well as anyone that the nature of the Yugoslav conflict was essentially nationalist, not religious.

    To get back to the Kosovo issue, it’s difficult not to view this as a situation in which everyone’s a loser. For Serbia, it’s an enormous ballast that will have to be dealt with sooner or later as they attempt to continue their European integration. And for Kosovo, it’s unclear how the state can make any meaningful progress at all while existing in the quasi-state netherworld along with Transnistria, Abkhazia, etc.

  3. I don’t see how everyone is a loser. Obviously the kosovar albanians are now free and in their own country, they can use their own language as an official language, use their own national symbols, open up as many schools in their mother tongue as they want, etc etc etc. It’s not a loser situation for all, only for those who had something to lose!

  4. @sawyer, I’d say it’s a problematic situation, no question. But (1) the Kosovar Albanians are definitely better off than they were before 1999, and (2) both they and the Serbs are probably better off than if Kosovo had remained part of Serbia.

    (1) is pretty straightforward. Serb rule in the 1990s was a corrupt, apartheid police state. As mirakulous says, Albanians couldn’t use their own language in schools, courtrooms, or government offices, couldn’t display national symbols, and were aggressively discriminated against in every sphere — jobs, housing, medical care, you name it. Freedom of speech and assembly did not exist, and the security forces could (and did) stop, search, arrest, imprison, and disappear Albanians pretty much at will. So, no question they’re better off now.

    (2) is much trickier, since it’s invoking the counterfactual: what if there’d been no 1999 war? My strong suspicion is that the Serbs would have been stuck with Milosevic for some years longer (even after he lost a major war, getting rid of him was touch and go). So, a few more years of grotesque corruption, rule by gangsters, and international isolation.

    Meanwhile the Albanians would have continued to endure Serb rule, which would have have become even more oppressive and violent due to the activities of the KLA — this was certainly the trend in the year leading up to the war.

    Absent NATO intervention, the KLA would have moved to attacking targets in Serbia — nail bombs in Knez Mihailova in Belgrade, and the like. Maybe eventually suicide bombers, but in any event aggressive attacks against civilian targets in Serbia. The Serb reaction to this is not hard to imagine.

    Basically, you’d end up with a cross between Chechnya and the West Bank. A nightmare for the Albanians, but not so great for the Serbs, either.

    Doug M.

  5. Kosovo was bound for independence. There is no way to prevent people who absolutely dont want to remain in another country from staying. Nor should we.

    So why shouldnt there be a strong decision by an international tribunal laying out the correct process? What are the circumstances which legitimize independence? Are there border issues to be dealt with, garantees for minorities, economic considerations, etc.?

    If its just a matter of popularity, military strength or geopolitics then what’s the point of the ICJ?

  6. I agree with Richard. You just can’t keep 2 million people in a country they have no affiliation with and that doesnt respect them. Many have tried this now, and its almost never worked. One way or another they’ll find a way to get out, sooner or later (depending on the support they get from abroad, and what they can offer in exchange).

  7. For whatever reason, you guys understood my comment to mean that I was opposed to Kosovo’s independence, but this was not what I meant. I just meant to say that as things stand now – as they were carried out, things were done poorly by both sides.

    I agree that, in reality, Serbia ought to be glad of Kosovo – a poor and backward part of the country populated by people most Serbs consider little more than untermenschen. But they’ve painted themselves into a corner, rhetorically, and they can hardly be seen to give up on it now.

    As for Kosovo, I think legally speaking their case for independence is pretty thin gruel. And I think a lot of the betterments you mention could have been accomplished by agreement with the Serbs.

    I don’t know why you both so roundly reject that some Ohrid Agreement-like thing could have been made between the Kosovars and the post-Milosevic Serbian leadership. I also think you accept without reservation that complete Albanian nonparticipation in the political life of FRY pre-1999 was the correct course of action – when this was a large factor in helping Milosevic stay in power.

    Finally, even if the two sides wanted to reach an agreement I’m not so sure that the two sides’ respective Great Power patrons have any sincere desire to see the conflict resolved. If anything, I think they genuinely prefer Kosovo to stay a kind of unresolved open wound, the better to screw Europe with. The EU picks up the tab and deals with the considerable problems associated with the new state, which even more than BOsnia is an invalid totally dependent on foreign assistance, while the US and Russia get to cluck disapprovingly from a distance, and intervene at their pleasure. (not to mention that international relations scholars get another chance to beat into the ground their favourite meme of “Europe just can’t get it together on foreign relations”.)

  8. Where is the wiseness in implementing “some Ohrid Agreement-like thing” when the real ohrid agreement isnt working, and macedonia is probably the next state that has to seriously deal with their albanian question?? The ohrid agreement hardly fixed anything on the ground in macedonia, so why use it as a model for anywhere else??

    Kosovo, although independent still has a lot of internal issues. If its got issues and its not dependent on serbia, how would it not have had bigger issues under serbia?? You say that a lot of the betterments couldve been achieved in agreement with the serbs, but the point is that even now the serbs have gotten way too many compromises over kosovo, so in agreement with them wouldve pretty much meant having the serbian(or yugoslavian then) army patrolling in prishtina.

    Complete albanian nonparticipation in yugoslav politics happened for a reason. Their rights were stripped away as soon as milosevic came to power, remember? Whatever thin balance tito had kept for 35 years amongst the different ethnicities, religions and states in yugoslavia was undone by milosevic in 10 years. So sure, nonparticipation was the right thing to do. I wouldn’t participate or recognize the authority of my state over me if it doesnt even respect me and treats me as an animal in my own home! Im sure you’d do the same if you were in the same position (hopefully neither of us will ever be in that position).

    As for your last paragraph i think u may be right. The EU has a bad track record in the balkans (bosnia, and now kosovo) and the US im sure would like to keep those memories fresh. The issue could be solved easily if the west recognizes the independence of south ossetia and abkhazia. I think russia would be game for such an exchange. Serbia will now be in a difficult position due to its paradoxical politics its been playing recently (proEU but not recognizing kosovo). Russia is already putting them in the position to pick sides with their recent threat that they will recognize kosovo’s independence if serbia joins NATO. That pretty much spells out what serbia needs to do, because if Russia recognizes kosovo, then its all over, and serbia will then be more isolated than ever.

  9. “There is no way to prevent people who absolutely dont want to remain in another country from staying. Nor should we. ”
    Does this principle also apply to S.Ossetia and Abhazia, not to mention Bosnia and Kurdistan?

    Back to Bosnia, the point is that unfortunately, the (as correctly pointed out) secular Bosnian muslims elected the proponent of “islamic values” Izbegovic. It was only then, and after some countries unwisely recognized Bosnia that people who were first class citizens in Yugoslavia objected to being second class in a country with “islamic values”, which the Balkan populations learned first hand during the turkish occupation.

  10. @sawyer,

    “I think a lot of the betterments you mention could have been accomplished by agreement with the Serbs.”

    I think this is overly optimistic, but let’s discuss.

    “I don’t know why you both so roundly reject that some Ohrid Agreement-like thing could have been made between the Kosovars and the post-Milosevic Serbian leadership.”

    That sounds nice, but how exactly would it happen?

    I think an Ohrid-style agreement would have been possible up until, oh, 1997 or so. But Milosevic would never have agreed to it — nationalist aggression against the Albanians was the original source of his legitimacy. And after 1997, the Albanians wouldn’t have agreed to it either — the cycle of violence had gone too far.

    We’re imagining a hypothetical post-Milosevic leadership without the 1999 war, yes? Well, they’d have very little room to maneuver. Large chunks of the population would still be locked into hyper-nationalist mode. Perhaps more to the point, I think it it would be very difficult to undo 15 years of progressive demonization of the Albanians. What Serb leadership is going to negotiate with a bunch of human traffickers, drug dealers, and terrorists? What plausible Serb electorate is going to support them in “giving away Kosovo”?

    On the Albanian side, who would the leadership be? Ibrahim Rugova was the most moderate possible Albanian leader; he was a pacifist who wanted rapprochement with the Serbs. And by 1999, before the NATO bombing, he’d been completely discredited. (He did come back a few years later, but that was due to a combination of tacit support from the UN and flagrant incompetence by his rivals.) You’d be seeing something like the coalition that represented the Albanians at Rambouillet — and they only just barely agreed to sign that, after massive arm-twisting by their great power backers.

    Finally, let’s keep in mind that Ohrid was extremely unpopular with both sides in Macedonia — many Slavs saw it as a disgusting surrender, while many Albanians thought they should have kept fighting. Kosovo would have had the same problem, except about five times more so.

    “I also think you accept without reservation that complete Albanian nonparticipation in the political life of FRY pre-1999 was the correct course of action – when this was a large factor in helping Milosevic stay in power.”

    I don’t accept it without reservation; I think there were some moments when it was a real mistake.

    That said, I understand why it happened. Keep in mind that the old Kosovar Diet had “dissolved” itself “voluntarily”, giving up Kosovar autonomy, while surrounded by tanks and armed soldiers from JNA. Shortly thereafter came the “cleansing” of Albanians from schools, hospitals, white-collar jobs generally, and of course the mines. The mining strikes were broken with extravagant violence, and the aforementioned apartheid police state was imposed. Under those circumstances, it’s easy to see how nonparticipation came to seem reasonable and attractive.

    — I do think there’s a contingent aspect to this. The Albanians ended up with Rugova as their leader in the 1990s, which was good and bad. Rugova’s pacifism probably kept Kosovo from descending into violence for a while, his insistence on nonviolent resistance gave the Albanians a little bit of moral high ground, and you have to respect his (relative) moderation and lack of racist animus. On the other hand, it’s probably no coincidence that the whole nonparticipation and “dignified withdrawal” thing just happened to (1) fit his personality, and (2) enhance his own power.

    “Finally, even if the two sides wanted to reach an agreement I’m not so sure that the two sides’ respective Great Power patrons have any sincere desire to see the conflict resolved. If anything, I think they genuinely prefer Kosovo to stay a kind of unresolved open wound, the better to screw Europe with.”

    This strikes me as excessively conspiratorial. No offense.

    “The EU picks up the tab and deals with the considerable problems associated with the new state,”

    True, but note that this is a very recent development — until last year, it was the UN.

    “international relations scholars get another chance to beat into the ground their favourite meme of “Europe just can’t get it together on foreign relations”.”

    It’s annoying — because it’s true!

    Doug M.

  11. @ Chris, the system has rejected comments from you because they contained too many URLs. One at a time, please.

    @mirakulous, I disagree about Ohrid. We’ve had eight years of peace in Macedonia. There’s no serious talk of secession or a return to violence any more. The two ethnic groups complain constantly, but they’ve managed to work together — every Macedonian government has included Albanian MPs and Ministers. I’d call Ohrid a pretty clear success.

    @ Hans, history matters, and not all cases are alike. So, for instnace, I think South Ossetia has a much stronger moral case than Abkhazia. Why? Because Abkhazia had an ethnic Georgian majority until the Abkhaz minority, with Russian help, drove them out.

    (There are plenty of cases where an independence-minded majority has ethnically cleansed a minority: Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechnya, South Ossetia. Abkhazia is the only case I know of where 1/3 of the population drove out the other 2/3 and then declared independence.)

    Context also matters. Demanding independence because you’re under a racist, oppressive regime that treats your people like dirt is one thing. Demanding it when you’re part of a perfectly good First World liberal democracy, because you have vague romantic nationalist aspirations and/or free-floating resentments against the metropole, is something else again. So, I think the Kurds have a serious case, but I am deeply underwhelmed by the Parti Quebecois and Scots Nationalists. “We’re oppressed by being part of Canada! Oh no!”

    Doug M.

  12. @Doug,
    thanks for letting me in on the problem.
    Here is my reply:
    You mentioned trying to keep this civil.
    You asked for a link, I gave you some. Do I agree with everything on the link? No. But that does not mean you cannot find interesting or believable info in sites you do not like.
    Whether a site is pro-Serb or pro-Albanian or pro-Moslem or pro-Milosevic, Izbegovic or anything else does not mean everything in it is false. It makes sense that pro-Serb cites would be more likely to print info on AlQueda involvement than pro-bosniak cites, so this should not be a surprise.

    With respect to my second link, the point is
    “the fact that round 10,000 foreign volunteers, jihad fighters, fought against the Christian population of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Most of these Islamic fanatics, members of Al Qaeda, came from Arab speaking countries”, not the arabic insciption.

    Basically you are disputing that AlQueda fought the Serbs in Bosnia. Well, you may also look at this from BBC(unless you also think BBC is pro-Serb and pro-Milosevic):
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7870597.stm

    I could easily ask who is stupid now, but I try to keep this civil.
    Note I am not disputing that Bosnia moslems are generally moderate nor am I discussing whether they, the Croats or the Serbs were right or whether they rightly accepted AlQueda aid(usually in a war you often accept all the help you can); I just find the position that there were no AlQueda fighters in Bosnia simply untenable. I will give you a couple more links on a second post

  13. Doug, I’m sorry but I have completely opposing views with u on ohrid. I see people complain about some fundamental things. Just because there is peace doesn’t mean all is well. It’s also due to an uninformed mass of people on the albanian side (howd that ever come to be?!) that they arent more active in voicing what theyre being denied. Just because some albanian politicians agree to sit in power with vmrno-dpmne even as they discriminate albanians, just means that those politicians don’t represent their electorate properly and are corrupt. It doesnt mean all is well. When albanians make up 26% officially(probably closer to 33% unnofficially) of the population and live in ghettos, and receive only about 5% of the gov’t budget, I’d say things are brewing that will have a breaking point one day. When the ruling party has an obsession with creating a macedonian identity and steps all over a large part of the state there are problems (macedonian language law, macedonian encyclopaedia issue,the polemics over the house of mother teresa, the skopje city plan which denies albanians a part in the city, just to name a few current issues). These are all offensive to those people.
    Ohrid didn’t even recognize albanians as a state-forming minority or nation within macedonia (which is a multiethnic state like kosovo under its constitution!) but only as a statistic (it refers to ANY ethnic groups comprising over 20%). Last week I heard Thaci, the leader of Xhaferri’s party (he was the idealogue of the ohrid agreement), say that they regretted signing the agreement, and that it had fundamental flaws.

    I stand by what i said earlier. Just because there is no war doesn’t mean all is well. People in the balkans are tired of war, and of dying in vain (it seems, because changes are hard to come by) so theyve quieted down for a while, but that doesn’t mean their lives are jolly. I remind you that there was a break in protests in kosovo too, from 67 to 81, and then till the 90s when it all flared up again. These things have their ups and downs, and macedonia is in a down right now. But keep in mind that the albanians there are being kept out of NATO and EU candidacy over something they have nothing to do with and that’s not their fault (the name issue with greece)! Let’s how long theyll wait for gruevski to deal with this, as he names everything after alexander at the same time!
    Sorry to deviate; was just replying to you.

  14. P.S. Quebec has had 3 referendums on independence and has voted NO on all 3. So I’d say their “demand” is baseless nowadays. Not to mention that probably the rest of canadians want them out now more than they wanna get out, just because of their snobbyness towards canada, and then voting to stay within it. But yes I agree, cases like that are ridiculous.

    But then again: who’s to decide whether “vague romantic nationalist sentiments” are valid or not? Isn’t self-determination a moral right everyone should have?
    Europe now is on the path of making nation synonomous with state. So if Spain is a nation, then the basque would have to be spanish nationals, but their nationality is actually basque and not spanish. So in this current euro definition of nation, which just confines it to your state borders, then the only way to ensure your nationality is to have your own nation (sovereign state). I think these progressives who come up with this stuff should be more consistent.

  15. Personally, I agree that history and context matters; however this is practically
    a slippery road. In Kossovo for example the Serbs will say the population shift had a lot to do with
    the WWII Nazi occupation and pro-nazi Albanian activities there or “a systematic campaign of
    terrorism and discrimination against Serbs”. So history is often an issue of how far back you
    want to go. Hell, Turkey could raise claims(and apparently Mr. Davoutoglou has such wet dreams)
    on all of the Balkans based on the fact that Turkey occupied them for 400 years! Israel is another
    similar case: The land was jewish long before it was Arab, just like the Balkans had their own populations
    before the turkish occupation and it is written nowhere that if somebody invades and takes your land
    you have so many years to take it back.

    The point is that neither history, nor context are judged by you or me or any such International Court, but
    by whoever has the power, in the case of Kossovo, NATO and in the case of S.Ossetia, Russia.
    For the same reason, Kurds may win hands down on historical or context issues, but they
    will probably never gain independence because this will not be granted by any court or my or your opinion,
    but by the force of arms. On the contrary, Quebec seems to me more likely to achieve independence
    (if they really want it), because Canada is not Turkey and might prefer to let Quebec go to civil war
    or even internal strife.

  16. “In Kossovo for example the Serbs will say the population shift had a lot to do with
    the WWII Nazi occupation and pro-nazi Albanian activities there or “a systematic campaign of
    terrorism and discrimination against Serbs”.”

    They do say that, but it’s nonsense. Kosovo has had an Albanian majority for as long as there’ve been censuses (the late Ottoman period, more or less).

    WWII saw oppression, torture, and terror, but the actual number of Serbs killed or permanently driven out was small — go and look at the Yugoslav censuses. Also, there was not mass Albanian emigration into the province after 1945; that one is pretty much pure myth, based on a handful of incidents and the desperate Serb need to claim that “most” Albanians are really “aliens”.

    The amount of the Albanian majority has grown steadily since 1945, almost entirely as a result of differential birth rates, with differential emigration — Serbs leaving, Albanians not — becoming a factor in the 1980s.

    There was discrimination against Serbs in autonomous Albania in the 1970s and 1980s. (Anyone who says otherwise is poorly informed or lying.) But it was elbow-nudging and name-calling, not murder and rape. Serb nationalists took what should have been a minor and solvable problem and used it to whip up a hysteria of fear and hatred.

    I agree that there comes a point where you have to draw a line and say “sorry — your claim dating back to 1688, 1453 or 1389 no longer applies.” In most cases, I’d draw that line less than 100 years ago. I’m not really seeing how it applies to Kosovo, though.

    Doug M.

  17. “Isn’t self-determination a moral right everyone should have?”

    No. Next question?

    Doug M.

  18. One point on Ohrid: if the Albanians who are joining government are corrupt, then that means that all Albanian politicians are corrupt, because both major Albanian parties have been part of Macedonian governments. There is no party that supports secession or disengagement.

    It’s happened a couple of times now that the Albanian party that’s out of power tries to boycott Parliament for a while, claiming that the other party is betraying Albanian interests. It never lasts — they always come back to Parliament and sit in opposition until their turn comes.

    I agree that Ohrid is imperfect and has problems. But that’s very different from saying it’s not working. It’s working just fine.

    (BTW, do you have a cite for that “5%” figure?)

    Doug M.

  19. As per your first comment: Don’t you think that’s a bit unreasonable? we should have no USA then, no germany, no france, etc etc.
    Who are you to deny people such a right? Really, anyone can just rise up and take it. But my point is on what authority are you stopping them??

    As for the cite, no I don’t have one. I heard that stat quoted by an activist on a tv show about problems in macedonia, that included politicians and representatives of NGOs there. I believe the stat quoted was 6%, and I stated it as about 5% for good measure. I’m sure you had many other arguments I used that don’t need this stat. The policies of vmrno-dpmne are enough of an argument.

    You’re right, both major parties are corrupt, because they all get personal concessions from the ruling macedonian parties, and they enjoy the posts they get offered. Of course, they’re not against disengagement. They further their personal careers and improve their families well being. If they disengaged they wouldnt have these benefits. The only time to boycott is when theyre in opposition, to try and get themselves in a governing coalition asap. This is common in balkan politics. That they’re not serving the interest of their albanian electorate is pretty clear when they’re not even blocking discriminatory policies of the government, never mind improving living conditions in that part of the country.
    I don’t see how its surprising to you that 2 political parties who’s electorate is not highly educated, are corrupt. And this is exactly what the macedonians want, as much division amongst the albanians as possible, and for those 2 parties to compete for who’s going to join the governing coalition, because if neither of them did then macedonia would have a real problem.

    That the ohrid agreement is keeping the peace I agree. That its “working just fine”, i disagree.

  20. I think Albanian collaboration with the nazis and
    attrocities in Kossovo is not a myth:
    http://www.kosovo.net/skenderbeyss.html

    On a moral side, this gives the Serb arguments at least some credibility. I’m not saying it is enough to grant them ‘ownership’, just that things are complicated. Same thing with Turkey having wiped out its minorities and complaining about the treatment of turkish minorities elsewhere(vindicating the side that cleansed its minorities and lectures on huuman rights)

    The point is that your 100 year rule”
    “sorry — your claim dating back to 1688, 1453 or 1389 no longer applies.” In most cases, I’d draw that line less than 100 years ago.”

    is rather arbitrary. It does apply to Kossovo indirectly:
    (Serbs can say: Why 100 years for us and 2000 for israel?). Turkey can also invoke that rule.
    (even more, it has 2 more years to recapture “lands lost 100 years ago in the Balkan wars, including the birthplace of Attaturk(!)”).

    The point: Borders are sacrosanct because countries have agreed to the 1974 Helsiki act saying so. In other words, all countries existing then have accepted existing borders(which is admittedly little consolation for the Kurds, for example). We cannot be selective about agreements. It is extremely hard to justify Kossovo’s independence, but not S.Ossetias. If after a much longer, much bloodier war, Bosnian communities are (perhaps forcibly) living together, why could not a similar solution be imposed on Kossovo? Independence creates all sorts of problems globally, as we have seen in S.Ossetia.

  21. Quebec has actually had 2 (not 3) referenda on independence (1980 and 1995). The issue is quiescent but far from dead. Interestingly in 1999 the Federal Government passed the Clarity Act outlining the conditions required for the Fed. Government to recognize a referendum on the secession of any Canadian province e.g. there must be a clear question approved by a clear majority.

    The Supreme Court of Canada held the legislation to be constitutional and also held that if Canada is divisible so is Quebec.

    This is what is required in international law – a recognition that self-determination is a right (and I disagree with Doug M. here) but subject to significant conditions. What are they? This is what the ICJ should be deciding.

  22. “Don’t you think that’s a bit unreasonable?”

    No.

    The question was, “isn’t self-determination a moral right that everyone should have?” And the answer is, no, it’s not.

    ISTM that’s obvious. I can’t declare myself the Sovereign Republic of Doug.

    “Oh, but we’re talking about ethnic groups!” — well, now you have what philosophers call the sandpile problem

    I do see a right to self-determination, but I don’t see it as absolute. Contingent, conditional, depends on the circumstances.

    Doug M.

  23. “think Albanian collaboration with the nazis and
    attrocities in Kossovo is not a myth”

    Nobody said it was. The question was whether WWII changed the ethnic composition of Kosovo. And the answer is, no, it didn’t much.

    “On a moral side, this gives the Serb arguments at least some credibility”

    My grandfather collaborated with the Nazis, and yours didn’t, so that gives you the right of sovereignty over me. Hm.

    The Chechens, Palestinians and Tibetans were all to some extent pro-Axis in WWII. The Chechens actually took up arms against the Allies — it took two Soviet divisions, stripped away from the desperate fighting on the Eastern Front, to crush their rebellion in 1942-3. Does this affect your opinion of the modern Chechen, Palestinian or Tibetan causes?

    Doug M.

  24. No, it mereles illustrates that it is hard to come up with good criteria for when it is ok and when it is not ok for a region to demand independence. Issues of time spent in a region, moral issues and any other consideration are not always aligned.
    What I definitely do not want to end up with is a criterion that says “Because we butchered everybody EFFICIENTLY and you did not for 100 years, even though you had the chance we get to keep what we got by butchering you in the first place.”

  25. Richard, You’re right it was 2. I personally believe the issue is dead because if you have a referendum then you’ve got all the moral right you deserve for self-determination. If you voted no then I say shut up and stop complaining.

    Doug, then answer me this. Does anyone have the right to decide which country a certain piece of land should be handed to?

  26. @mirakulous, that’s an excellent question. I don’t have a simple easy answer.

    The people who live there should have a voice, but not necessarily the only voice. The will of the international community is relevant, but certainly not determinative.

    If you go through the archives, you’ll find that I opposed Montenegro’s secession from Serbia a few years ago — but for practical (mostly economic) reasons, not because I thought they were morally or legally wrong. In fact, I approved of the process; a supermajority vote (55%) and a minimum required turnout (60%). I don’t think secession should ever be done lightly, and I don’t think secession by simple “majority of those voting” is a good idea at all.

    Finally, I’d add that I’m really, really unimpressed by the traditional absolutist Westphalian / Helsinki view of sovereignty. In practice, it allows secession to be legally recognized only if there is mutual consent (USSR, Czecheslovakia, Montenegro) or after long, bloody and devastating wars (Bangladesh, Eritrea, and, effective next year, South Sudan).

    Kosovo got off relatively light: “only” a couple of years of serious guerrilla war, three months of active warfare, and a vigorous but failed attempt at ethnic cleansing. An Eritrean or South Sudanese would laugh — those guys had independence wars that lasted for decades and killed literally millions of people.

    Under Westphalia, the only way to win legal, recognized independence is to inflict crushing military defeat on the other country — either by beating them in a war (Eritrea), getting someone else to beat them in a war (Bangladesh), or dragging an expensive low-intensity conflict out for so many years that the other guy eventually throws up his hands and walks away (South Sudan). That just doesn’t strike me as ideal.

    Doug M.

  27. I respect your answer. The problem is that BECAUSE the international community has had relevance in the issue, is why we have problems. First off, who is the international community? Who decides these self-proclaimed internationals to make decisions for everyone? And how does the international community change? In the late 30s, the “international community” was germany and italy, and they changed borders in mainland europe as they saw fit, exchanged pieces of land between countries (poland, hungary, czechoslovakia) as if they were pawns in a chess match. And they did all this as they saw fit for their own interests, not those of the people in those lands and not in tune with their self-determination. So why should the international community have relevance?
    Second, had it not been for the international community there would’ve never been an issue in kosovo. It was the “international community” that frankly handed kosovo to serbia at the london conference of 1913, and then 100 years later they tried to correct that problem when they realized that people are dying due to their fault. But from 1913 to 1999, that’s a lot of time to take away from people, isnt that so wrong?? So, should they have relevance in the self-determination of people, if their relevance has been the PROBLEM?
    This is what I was referring to when I said who has the right to decide which country random pieces of land should go to. And the list of such examples could go on for days, because it’s bound to when you have 4 or 5 men (stalin,truman, de gaulle, and british pm (name escapes me at the moment)) deciding the borders of millions of people looking at a map, as if theyre talking about ants. Talk about playing god, eh?!!

    Also, where is the consistency with which the “international community” deals with issues?? Montenegro had to have a 55% pro vote, and 60% turnout (some guys not even from serbia and montenegro decided this and imposed it!!), while czechoslovakia disbanded without even a referendum, or a parlamentary vote. The president of czechia (czech repub) and slovakia met and decided to disband. Why didn’t the “international community” impose X% pro-vote in a referendum and Y% turnout??

    I think you should be unimpressed with a lot of things in international elite politics. It is obvious that there are no rules and they make things happen as they go, in their own self-interests and impose their views on the smaller states. Basque should have equal rights of self-determination as kosovo has(although the latter never had a referendum on anything), but I dont see NATO stepping in to save the basque(i realize that nowadays the basque are well off, but in the past they have been stepped on!!).

    P.S. I would’ve loved to hear your opinion on the issue I brought up about the “international” definition of nation, which runs in a paradox with the existence of nations that dont have their own states.

  28. Can’t understand how Serbs try to draw simpothy from the world by trying to refer to Kosovo as there isreal. It’s a prity well know fact that the Albanians like the the Jews were the origanal inhabbtints of there respective lands. It’s unfortunit for the albanians. that so many years ago a very crafty group of indivduals thought the best why to grab a very large amount of land from a large amount of people would be to group them into one section of the land under one tribe name. The albanio, or today albanian. Do to this distructive but smart attempt has turned the Balkans into a nationalist tinder box of fear that the same could happen again. Kosovo for the people who are only familiar whith it do to the war and Serbs claim to 1389. Need to know that not all Illyrians were albanio they were also dardanian just to name one from many.  ” Kosovo” a Slavic name has only exsited in history terms a short while. Just need to put that out there. Oh and also Albanians were the first Catholics in the Balkans who inturn were forced into othodox by the Greeks and Slavs then Islam by the Turks. So for all who need religon to pick aside. Do what the Albanians do, DONT!! 

  29. Interesting discussion. Countries got formed and ended up with their existing borders as a result of wars.
    Helsinki was about ending wars by accepting existing borders. Comments about who was there first have the problem of when do you start. I already mentioned why
    Turkey may claim all the Balkans by that reasoning; Greeks can also invoke byzantine times and do likewise; Italians can also invoke roman times and do so. Plus some of the claims to old times are completely crazy, such as Albanian link to Dardanians or FYRO-Macedonian claims to Alexander.
    In any event if we accept Helsinki(countries have
    signed) we end border disputes, which are the main reason for wars. If not, then wars to redefine borders are the inevitable outcome. Is Helsinki ‘just’? No, it basically says “if you did not manage to get independence by 1974, you never will”. But it is probably the best that can be done(plus pressure regimes to avoid genocides and oppression-which may or may be not as easy as it sounds, e.g. Tibet). If not, then as in the Malic link, you can have Turkey claiming all the Balkans.
    As for Kossovo, things are more complex than this, because Kossovo was a Serb-dominated area, before 1389, and big changes in the demographic composition happened during the Ottoman rule. Because no Helsinki
    was in effect at the time, it was “right” to
    “undo” the effects of the occupation.
    Further change of demographics happened during WWII
    From Wikipedia:
    “Mustafa Kruja, the Prime Minister of Albania, was in Kosovo in June 1942, and at a meeting with the Albanian leaders of Kosovo, he said: “We should endeavour to ensure that the Serb population of Kosovo be – the area be cleansed of them and all Serbs who had been living there for centuries should be termed colonialists and sent to concentration camps in Albania. The Serb settlers should be killed.”

    The point is not that Kossovo “rightly” belongs to one or the other side; it is just that things are quite complicated if you invoke history and selectively abolishing Helsinki as we see fit opens up Pandorra’s box, especially in the Balkans.

  30. “as in the Malic link, you can have Turkey claiming all the Balkans”

    I’m sorry, but that’s idiotic. Turkey has explicitly given up all territorial claims outside of its current borders. More to the point, there is zero sentiment in Turkey for irredentist claims on what used to be Turkey-in-Europe. Ataturk rejected all of that and made it a core element of his legacy, and nobody in Turkey cares to revisit the issue.

    The fact that Malic can say stuff like that with a straight face is yet another reason not to take him seriously.

    “because Kossovo was a Serb-dominated area, before 1389, and big changes in the demographic composition happened during the Ottoman rule… it was “right” to “undo” the effects of the occupation.”

    So, Serbs should have the right to expel all Albanians because their great-great-grandfathers moved into Kosovo in the 1800s under Ottoman rule?

    Is that really what you’re saying here? I just want to be clear.

    “From wikipedia”

    Sorry, but no. That quote from Mustafa Kruja is a staple of Serb nationalist writing, but no reliable source for it has ever been found.

    Again: this is not to say there wasn’t serious persecution of Serbs in Kosovo during 1941-44. There was. But it did not result in major changes to the province’s ethnic balance.

    Doug M.

  31. To Hans, Serbs infact were never the majority in Kosovo that’s a made up cunsenses by the Serbs. To put the Albanians in the same catogory with fyrom is a sad attempt to again disclaim the Albanians of the history. That just shows how much discontent people have for them. Fyrom is a sure fact of there illusion they have with the ancent macedonian. They have more incomon with the Bulgarians and Slavs. They don’t even speak Macedonian. This go’s to show you why the Balkans are such a nationalistic area. Serbs are smart when it comes to historical ties. They always make sure to flood you with all it recent history so no one ever ask the qustion were did the Serbs come from. You’ll never here a Serb talk about there antcestary I guess that’s just apart of there history they just want to hide. All and all the only way the Balkans would have been a nonwar peaceful place today. It need to be correctly borders back in 1913. Were all the majority were letf to there borders and left alone. Then today we would more then likely have a Balkans with no borders so it’s harder today if Kosovo needs to be independent let it if fyrom wants to Macedonian let it. Cause in 100 years it will be the place of legend and unity cause if there’s no reason to fight then theres only reason for happyness.

  32. WOW! Just mashed up a whole lotta thoughts in one very confuseing paragraph! LOL. “don’t text and drive”. What I was trying to say. they should have left the boarders alone the way they were before the london agrement I beleave had they there wouldn’t be these kind of isuse today. Just the opposite people would have had enough time to move on past there nationalistic stance and enjoyed each other. An know it’s time to Start over. So in another hundred years the Balkans will be a place of inormus history and peace.

  33. @Hans.
    U said: Turkey may claim all the Balkans by that reasoning; Greeks can also invoke byzantine times and do likewise; Italians can also invoke roman times and do so. Plus some of the claims to old times are completely crazy, such as Albanian link to Dardanians or FYRO-Macedonian claims to Alexander.

    You’re not comparing things right. First off, turkey isn’t the ottomans. The ottoman empire was made up of lots of people and not just turkey, and also the ottomans were 1 of many turkic tribes that took over the rest.
    Italians today arent the romans. Rome went all the way to england, so why isn’t england the descendent of rome, or gaul(spain), but you’re making italy the continuation of it?
    And same thing with greece and byzantium, it extended way beyond greece and greeks.
    As for Dardanians, they are actually the ancestors of albanians, no crazyness there. But no one is claiming to have all Illyrian lands be part of albania…that would be ridiculous. But their past cant be denied. While macedonia is again a bad comparison because Alexander is not an actual ancestor of present day macedonians who are slavic. Alexander wasn’t slavic.
    I feel I should mention that countries have signed helsiniki, governments, but not people. When yugoslavia signed helsinki, it doesn’t mean that kosovo signed it or even agreed with it! So you can’t expect them to abide by it.

    You make a controversial claim that the makeup of kosovo was serb dominated before 1389, but there are a couple of problems with this claim. First off, you said it yourself that its a big issue to decide how far back you should go to consider a land. Even if it was serb majority prior to 1389, if u go even further back it was completely free of serbs before the 7th century, before the slavs came down. So then it should’nt have anything to do with serbs.
    Second problem, before 1389 there were no serbs. What it meant to be a serb was not defined. The Battle of Kosovo is considered the first event that lead to the creation of the distinct “serb” ethnicity. So before then it was just different tribes of slavs, and different tribes of albanians(or illyrians by the same non-national thinking). So its a very big claim to make what youre saying.

    Can you cite where you got the quote by mustafa kruja please? Also, just because an irresponsible politician may have made a statement like that, doesnt mean that policy was ever used. If anything the serbs are known for using such policies. Politicians also always cater to their audience, so this has to be taken in context. I’m curious to see which book has this, because I’ve never heard of this quote.

  34. @Doug: I am not saying Turkey, Greece or Italy has any such claim. The Malic link had nostalgic sentiments of ottoman grandeur by Davoutoglou,(“Now is the time for reunification. Then we will rediscover the spirit of the Balkans. We need to create a new feeling of unity in the region. We need to strengthen regional ownership, a common regional conscience… It all depends on which part of history you look to. From the 15th to the 20th century, the history of the Balkans was a history of success. We can have this success again”…”The Ottoman era in the Balkans is a success story. Now it needs to come back.”) but no more than that.
    “So, Serbs should have the right to expel all Albanians because their great-great-grandfathers moved into Kosovo in the 1800s under Ottoman rule?

    Is that really what you’re saying here? I just want to be clear”

    Of course not: read again what my point is. All I am saying is that any “rules” or who owns what are very dangerous ground. What this argument says is that if one does not want to accept the current demographics, they can always find a good excuse. This is why I think that Helsinki, for all its shortcomings, is a good thing and we should be very very careful about making exceptions.
    @Balkanfever: You want the borders back to 1913?
    Then you should also come up with a good argument why that years hould be 1913 for the Balkans, and 1974 for everyone else. For instance Israel would revert to british rule under this convention.
    @miraculous:First, state continuation is partially a legal term. In the case of Turkey, it is the continuation of the Ottoman empire, just as the UK is the continuation of the british empire. It does not mean all of its land remain, but for instance obligations do. Anyway, if one wants to justify a claim, all one has to say is “our people were there first”. I’m not saying this will win the argument, but it will be a basis for a claim, at least in their own minds.
    Next, people did not sign Helsinki. Sorry, by the same token just because governments sign when they borrow money, this means the taxpayer does not need to recognize any of his country’s debt? Too good to be true!
    Next about Kossovo being Serb-dominated before 1389: I fear this is in danger of missing the point. My point is not “who Kossovo rightly belongs to”, but just that it is very hard to deal with that question and the best one can do is Helsinki. You can look it up in wikipedia though, see next link.

    The quote by Mustafa Kruja is from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosovo

  35. Hans, sure I concede that continuation is partially legally recognized. But don’t think that includes the roman empire, because there are no liabilities that Italy carries on due to it. When Rome broke up we didn’t get republics formed, as with the decolonization of the british empire. Analogies are a bit different.

    Sure, I understand the concept that governments represent their people, but in this case specifically I think you realize that that doesn’t apply. If yugoslavia sings helsinki that doesnt represent kosovo, because the people of kosovo were never represented by yugoslavia. If you read that wiki page on the history of kosovo that you posted, you will have read that when albanian and yugoslavian communists freed themselves (or rather took power after the german retreat) from the axis powers, they jointly decided on the future of kosovo within serbia. So virtually, 2 people, hoxha and tito decided the future of those people. So how do you expect that morally the people of kosovo should recognize the decisions that the yugoslav gov’t makes on their behalf, and not rise up for their liberties? Laws aren’t always moral, but legal principles definitely do and should always have a moral basis.

    “My point is not “who Kossovo rightly belongs to”, but just that it is very hard to deal with that question and the best one can do is Helsinki.”

    Don’t think its that hard in this case. It has always been massively populated by non-slavs. So take it from there. Even if not, you believe in Helsinki, so let it belong to the will of the people populating it at the time helsinki was signed.

  36. Douglas Muir wrote:

    “I remember when he cited the Lord of the Rings movies as proof for libertarianism.”

    Seems like normal political rhetoric. Two rather prominent Finnish populist politicians – one of them a city councilman in Helsinki, and the other one will start as a MEP in the next year – are using the Lord of the Rings novels as an argument for restricting immigration.

    The link to one of the relevant weblog texts by the first fellow is included. It’s in Finnish, but the photograph speaks for itself, and you can recognize the English-language Tolkien quote in the end. The title is “A Vision of Future”.

    Pardon the digression; back to Kosovo!

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  37. @mirakulous:
    I understand your point. But like you say, if legal principles should have a moral basis, and we accept that all people are equal, then the same principle that applies in Kossovo should apply to S.Ossetia, Bosnia, Tetovo, or Kurdistan for that matter. All these areas have indigenous populations that consider themselves distinct from the rest of the country. Which could result in more long wars…

  38. Sure, it should. I totally support that. I believe all those peoples have suffered long enough, and the prospect of them finally having some peace is something worth fighting for. There doesn’t have to be war at all Hans. If the “international community” would for once use their weight and power for fairness and equality instead of personal gain, this could be done peacefully. If the double standards that the EU/US/Russia/China apply to smaller nation were discarded we could go a long way towards righting previous wrongs. I’m not saying it would be easy, but I’m saying that no one is even trying. Self-determination is a right that everyone should have.

  39. “The quote by Mustafa Kruja is from wikipedia”

    I’m sorry, but that’s just stupid. You do realize where stuff on Wikipedia comes from, yes?

    The quote is even footnoted: ‘Bogdanovic, Dimitrije. The Book on Kosovo.’ Dimitrije Bogdanovic was a hard-line Serb nationalist and an enthusiastic supporter of Milosevic. When he died a few years back, there was a brief burst of eulogies for him as a “true Serb patriot” and “defender of Kosovo”.

    Bogdanovic is not actually the original source of the quote, mind. He got it from somewhere else. A couple of minutes of googling should give it to you — it’s not hard.

    Here’s a hint: the “quote” appears suddenly nearly forty years after Kruje is supposed to have said it. There does not seem to be any contemporaneous source supporting its validity.

    Note that Mustafa Kruja seems to have been, by the low standards of Axis collaborators, a decent fellow. He worked to protect the Jews of Albania (he’s the main reason almost all of them escaped alive), resigned from the Prime Minister’s office rather than collaborate with the SS, fled Albania for Liberated Italy in 1944, and eventually was quietly granted asylum by the Allies, first in France and then in the US — he died in New York, many years after the war.

    The Italians chose him to be their PM because he was /not/ a hardline Albanian nationalist, but rather a pro-Italian conservative. The bloodthirsty “KILL SERBS KILL” quote is not really consistent with what’s known of his character. It is, OTOH, exactly consistent with what a Serb nationalist would put in an Albanian leader’s mouth.

    Doug M.

  40. @doug: The Kruja issue: It is irrelevant. The point was that different people have different versions of history or attribute different weights to the importance of historical events.
    @mirakulous: Self-determination is surely a good idea, but clearly needs some boundaries, like Doug mentioned. These boundaries can only be ultimately subjective. Do for example Algerian immigrants in France or turkish immigrants in Germany, have a right to form their own state? The problem gets even worse when -as in the case of Yugoslavia- a local majority that is a statewide minority wants not just independence, but also to take with them and impose their own laws on people who live in the area and do not want independence. This is why in real life the principle is applied only when it can be backed up by force(such as the creation of Balkan states by breaking up the Ottoman empire) or some sort of convention(such as Helsinki).

  41. @Hans. Come on Turks in Germany, that was a sad atempt. That’s not even in the same field of play with Kosovo, stop reaching. Turks or any other outside minority who fled there land looking for a better life could not and would not even embares them selves with that kind of thinking. All the minoritys in Kosovo have been living there for centuries and see Kosovo as home and rightfuly so but they know in the back of there minds that there roots lay out side of Kosovo and an attempt to seperate would just be rediculus and with know grounds. An Kosovo respect and recognize it’s minorities. unlike alot of “developed countries” in Europe or ealse were. The Kosovo flag is proff of that. Just studying the history of the albns and srbs I would probubly want the more passive and understanding Albanians runnig the country rather then The historicly nationalistic unpredictbul Serbs. During the 80s and 90s befor the war there was alot of unpublish unnoticed cover ups happening to the Albanians that a vast mojorty of the world never knew and every attempt the Albanians made to expose these things it was looked at as a lie or half truth. That’s Serb politics and policy so if you ask me I would rather the albns then srbs controling the countrys future. Oh and if you insight ” Enver hoxhja” the commi for passive Albanian you a moron.

  42. @ Hans.
    Turks in Germany aren’t autochtonous. Algerians in france arent autochtonous. It is crucial that you understand this difference. I think you’re just reaching for arguments now. You’re comparing people who are indigenous and native to the land with people who moved to another country in recent memory. This is why pakistanis in england cant form a sovereign state with in it, but scots CAN have a referendum on sovereignty.

  43. “Turks in Germany aren’t autochtonous. Algerians in france arent autochtonous.”
    Exactly the point. So we agree that first, “right to self-determination” is conditional and not absolute, as originally suggested. Second, history matters, which is a question of “who came first” and this is often disputed and not as automatic as one would like-because it’s a question of people making a decision.
    Third, suppose 10 generations later they are still not integrated. Do they **ever** get the right to self-determination or not? Because most nations at some point or another in history migrated to the geographical area they are today. I assume the answer is ‘never’?. If so look at say Mexicans in the US and suppose 500 years from now they form the majority in a state and wish to proclaim independece. What then? Yes, they are not autochonous, but they did not arrive much later that the first settlers. Again, I’m not saying there is any such wish, just an issue of principle.
    P.S. I am discussing a general principle here, not whether minorities are well off in Kossovo.

  44. One more thing: In modern western democracies you cannot have citizens with different rights. I mean that once Mexicans become American, Algerian become French and Turks become German citizens, you cannot discriminate based on their origin. In other words: If New Yorkers, Marseillais or Bavarians have a right to self-determination, so does any citizen, for example Texas if it has a Mexican majority who wishes to become independent. You realize of course, that all this is purely hypothetical, but we are discussing a principle here. In the case of Kossovo, there is a stronger moral ground for independence, in that an authochonous population wishes so, but legally it would have been no different if the majority had migrated 20 years ago and aquired Yugoslav citizenship. It is a much stronger principle that all citizens have equal rights.

  45. @Hans
    it’s the Serbs that should be reffenced as the mexcicans and not the Albanians. It’s funny how you and many others use that reffrence. That is a directed attempt to misslead the readers To think right off the bat that again the albanians are some how the out siders when in fact the Serbs and mexs should be in the same catogory. So please stop trying to drive that odvius attempt home. The only reason I feel the Albanians lost Kosovo during the London talks was because of there conversion to Islam I beleve that if the Albanians were majorty cathlic at that time it would have been a totoly differnt out come. Let’s keep in mind that cathlic Europe hated and worried about the ottoman espansion. And because they saw the Serb as the last stand against Islam and the Turks. They felt it nesesary to hand Kosovo to the Serbs for there ” great battle” of Kosovo. GOOD against EVIL and faild to recognize that the Albanians for so many years were fighting to battles one against the Serbs and against Turks. Had Europe help the Albanian in deffending christanity they Would of know of the Albanians misary but instead they sat on there shaking hands and pryed.

  46. Hans, its conditional based upon the condition that people are autochtonous and not the colonizers who kicked out the autochtonous population. The difficulty should be in realizing who is who.But there are cases when this is well known, as i said, as in kosovo. The whole world over knows that the slavs were the latest addition to the balkans. No doubts there.

    As for your mexican example, it doesnt apply here. The US is a post-nationalist country, and as such, mexicans will affect what it means to be american and that will change, and in the process what it means to be mexican americans will also change. THere is no such problems in the US as not allowing people of a different background their basic cultural rights. In fact, the US doesn’t even have an official language. So in some future if most americans are spanish speakers, official business will be done in spanish, as english is not their official language in their constitution. So the issue changes gravely between post-nationalist countries (US, Canada, Australia) and nationalist based countries, of which the balkans are the prime example. If certain states want to break away from the union though, there are certain things they can do although secession is explicitly disallowed. Each state has their own natonal guard, etc etc. Even if, i’m saying.

    I disagree with you that the issue in kosovo would’ve not been different had the albanians moved to kosovo 20 years ago and just received citizenship. First of all, a population can’t set up historical and cultural roots in a land in 20 years. Second of all, their case for independence(which was a rough 96 year road as it was) would’ve been impossible and they would’ve had absolutely no support. Third, how the hell do 2 million people just all immigrate at the same time to a place, and somehow integrate in that society and the institutions? Just not a realistic example hans, and it would’ve not flown. Their case morally and legally would not have been the same. Part of the reason kosovo has western support is due to the injustice done to kosovo by the west at the London Conference of 1913. If this hadn’t happened the west would have no reason to support a bunch of immigrants who go to someone else’s house and want to tell the owners what to do. That doesn’t fly in so many ways.

  47. FWIW, I’m not very impressed by arguments that say “we were here TWO thousand years as opposed to your ONE thousand years”.

    ‘Authochthonous’ is a slippery term. Do the Hungarians in Romania (arrived in the 9th century) count? Turks in Bulgaria (15th century)? Turks in Cyprus (17th century)? Ulster Protestants (17th-18th centuries)? Russians in Crimea (18th-19th centuries — before that it was all Tatars)? The Germans in Danish Schleswig (moved there in the late 19th century, when it was part of Prussia)? Poles in what used to be Prussia (1945)?

    A slippery term, and IMO not a very useful one. And in its more extreme uses, just ridiculous. (“We’ve been here since the 9th century!” “Well, WE’ve been here since the THIRD century!”)

    Doug M.

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