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Thoughts on Kosovo:
Are we seeing a new world map
with lots of new borders
and new countries?



Tamara Tsikhistavi

February 17, 2008

Kosovo’s independence is a burning issue that involves governments of the influential and post-conflict countries in hot debates. There is a risk that recognition of Kosovo’s independence would immediately result in the escalation of different existing conflicts in the world. Obviously it would also stimulate leaders/people of potential conflict zones to fight for the recognition of their independence.

Taking into account the situation in different non-recognized entities in conflict regions around the world, there is no doubt that the Kosovo issue will be seen as a great opportunity and example to demand recognition of their independence arguing that too have the right of self-determination.

It means that Kosovo’s independence establishes a precedent for other non-recognized territories. The risk is high that this will re-activate of a number of frozen conflicts in the international system.
Supporters of Kosovo’s independence might argue, that according to the Human Rights Declaration “All peoples have the right to self-determination, by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

But there is also the famous other side of the coin. The International Community (IC) must take a few other legal principles into consideration before it establishes a precedent such as Kosovo

  • The international community must respect the sovereignty and existing borders of recognized independent states, respect international law, UN resolutions (for instance UN Security Council resolution 1244 on Kosovo) and OSCE agreements. 
  • The international community must be held responsible for any number of IDPs and refugees who are affected by its decisions in conflict resolution processes. Irrespective of where they come from, they have a crystal clear legitimate right to return to their motherlands after conflicts have been resolved – and are right in expecting the IC to assist them in doing so. 

The mainstream or Realpolitik debate about Kosovo’s independence, seems to be built on a new scheme in the world politics that - tacitly - aims to change the above-mentioned established rules in international relations. Perhaps in this situation it does not seem meaningful to work for and propose peaceful resolution and peaceful co-existence among the conflicting parties since some powerful factors in the international community – willingly or net – now establish a precedent for violent secessionist policies leading to recognition of the non-recognized province of Kosovo – an indisputable part of Serbia (see UNSC 1244) - as an independent country.

If so, what could Kosovo’s independence mean for other, similar conflict regions of the world?

    • It could mean that we are talking about a new strategy of the international community that takes into consideration the rights of only one group of people (majority population of current conflict regions or provinces) without thinking the slightest about the other groups such as minorities inside minorities, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.
    • The international community declares openly and squarely that it supports the  rights of only separatist or secessionist people/regions, never taking into consideration IDPs and refugees and minorities inside those separatist areas, also that they don’t recognize any more the sovereignty and territorial integrity of post-conflict countries.
    • The borders of many sovereign countries will most probably have to change as there will be more and more groups of people demanding (with reference to Kosovo) to be recognized as new independent states.
    • Soon or later we shall witness a new world map with new borders, divided societies and more or less ethnically pure inhabitants.

As a result, we would face many more new sovereign countries on the one hand, on the other hand, thousands or millions of refugees and IDPs living in other countries without any right to go back to their motherlands.

There will indeed be many post-conflict countries with lost territories (recognized by the international community as independent states). World politics will welcome new sovereign states, “celebrating” a – perverse - kind of “peaceful resolution of frozen conflicts” that divides a series of existing independent countries into several new parts. 

Furthermore, as soon as other potential conflict regions will appear, raising the issues of independence, the strategy of the international community will have, in the name of consistency and principled policies, to remain the same: the international community would be forced to recognize independence of more countries in order to prevent the escalation of conflicts into violence. 

If eventually this approach is approved by the powerful countries of the world, including at some point,  the UN Security Council, we would face a new world order and world politics that would most probably change borders of many countries and – to put it diplomatically, create an ongoing fluidity, disorder, if not chaos.
In this case we should also better forget about human rights and equality. There will be openly supported groups of people (usually known as minorities, later becoming pure majorities, throwing out other ethnic groups from “their” territories as part of their independence and openly discriminating minorities as well as IDPs and refugees who will be given no chance to return to their motherlands considered an independent states. In the case of Kosovo, for instance, no one talks about the Kosovo-Serbs who were chased out of Kosovo in reverse ethnic cleansing after NATO’s bombings in 1999 and who as lived ever since in Serbia; they make up Europe’s largest refugee problem.

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The independence of Kosovo is not only about the future of Kosovo; it has serious consequences for many other post-war/conflict areas and cases where secession/independence dynamics may set themselves through in the wake of international policies in the case of Kosovo.

Thus, it is first and foremost about equal and universal protection of human rights and abut the indisputable obligation of the international community to assist in the peaceful resolution of conflicts while respecting the sovereignty of existing states.

It indeed remains to be seen how this dilemma will play out worldwide in years to come. And it would be helpful if more media coverage and more debate – academic and political – would begin to address the Kosovo issue in this broader perspective.      


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