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Perspective

THE EU DIVIDE ON KOSOVO

By Patrick Moore
RFE/RL regional analyst, Balkan and Russian affairs


It is widely expected that Britain and France, along with most of the smaller EU states, will back the position taken by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in late September that independence for Kosovo "is the only solution that is potentially stabilizing for the Balkans" and that "if the [Europeans] need a stable Balkans, they're going to have to take tough decisions and do the right thing."
Many prominent Italian political figures and scholars at think tanks have strong reservations about an independent Kosovo, which they regard as too poor to be a viable state and hence a likely source of criminal activity. Rome, however, is unlikely to actively oppose any strong pro-independence majority in the EU as a whole.
Germany's position is somewhat ambiguous. Berlin has supplied some of the top international civilian and military officials in Kosovo and is very familiar with the situation on the ground, including the likelihood of violence if the status question is not resolved soon. Some top German experts nonetheless have issued a study in which they outlined a number of alternative approaches to Kosovo's future that stop well short of independence. The report is widely assumed to have been drafted at the request of the Foreign Ministry. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" criticized the proposals as being too much like those that formed the basis of the short-lived hybrid state of Serbia and Montenegro, which, the paper argued, proved to be a waste of time and resources.
Spain is the only one of the large EU member states that has indicated strong opposition to Kosovo's independence, although some reports suggest that Madrid's opposition has weakened lately. Spain's concern is not wanting to set a precedent for the possible independence of some of its regions, which, like Kosovo under the 1974 Yugoslav and Serbian constitutions, have strong legal guarantees of autonomy. Romania and Slovakia are similarly concerned about possible secessionist aspirations of their respective Hungarian minorities, which, however, do not enjoy constitutional autonomy on the Kosovar or Catalan models.
Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Cyprus are all bound by traditional feelings of friendship toward Serbia and are sensitive toward Belgrade's point of view.
Hungary is in a special category. As was the case during the wars of the 1990s, Budapest is very careful not to offend Belgrade lest the Serbian authorities vent their displeasure on the large ethnic Hungarian minority in Vojvodina.

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