Independence. Independence. Independence.
This is the battle cry and the line that has been drawn in the sand by the Kosovar Albanians during the status talks. But the critical looming question is what will happen to Kosovo when and if it is granted independence?
Put another way, by simply declaring independence, will that by itself bridge Kosovo into the brave new world? Will that fix government corruption? Will that fix the high unemployment rate, estimated to be at 50% or more? Will that fix the fact that the average Kosovar earns 250 euros a month? Will that fix the fact that pubic utilities need to be significantly improved? Will that fix the severe inequality between men and women, both in pay and property rights? Will that fix bad governance?
The answer is obvious. Declaring independence, by itself, will not replace proper planning, leadership, vision, and hard work. The critical step of independence must be followed by the equally, if not more, critical step of providing good governance, health, and prosperity to all its citizens. That second critical step is what will provide real security for the region.
Humphrey Hawksley, in the article, “Kosovo’s Independence Could Mean a New Conflict”, published on 5 November 2007 (http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=9934&gclid=CJ7imuXC8o8CFQSTMAodsnA_IQ), argues that calls for sovereignty must also come with a vision of Kosovo’s future that is free from hyperbole and pipedreams. Although I think Hawksley’s comparison between Kosovo and Taiwan is inapt, he raises an interesting starting point of discussion of the broader implications of Kosovo independence. A segment of the article is below:
Kosovo’s argument that it cannot clear the litter and fix the roads without independence is nonsense. It is, in essence, facing the choice of whether it wants to resemble the bloodied Palestinian territories or glittering Taiwan. While the Palestinians remain mired with land rights and grievances, Taiwan, with no official status at all, has become a global economy, raising the question that if Taiwan can carry on with its ambiguous status, why can’t Kosovo?
Serbia, too, must decide on whether it wants to end up as a client state of an authoritarian Russia or sign on to the democratic values entrenched within the European Union. A quick look at the hospitals of Brussels compared to those of Moscow might hint which system the average Serb parents would trust to care for their children.
It is time for politicians in both Serbia and Kosovo to lead their people away from the contentious issue of independence. Ahtisaari has already provided details of how the area can be managed and funded for the next decade or so. The West must also send an unequivocal message that the way forward is to deliver not nationalistic symbolism but good governance. The legitimacy of both Serbia and Kosovo will come not from their ability to protect historical legends, but to provide health, education, employment and a thriving economy for their citizens.