Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why Kosovo Still Matters The United States and Europe stood up to Serbia. Can they stand up to North Korea and Iran?

by Christopher Hitchens

July 26, 2010

The impressive decision last week by the International Court of Justice in The Hague—to reject the claim submitted by Serbia that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence was unlawful—was mostly either ignored or reported in articles festooned with false alarmism about hypothetical future secessions. Allow this precedent, moaned many, and what is to stop, say, Catalonia from breaking away?

This line of thinking is wrong twice. To begin with, there is no actual or theoretical world in which Kosovo could possibly have continued to be ruled from Belgrade, let alone considered part of Serbia. In the first place, the international treaties that originally recognized Kosovo as a constituent of Yugoslavia did just that: It was a member of a wider post-1918 federation and not a segment of just one province of it. (For the legal details of this crucial distinction, see Noel Malcolm's Kosovo: A Short History) Even the old-style Yugoslav Communists granted Kosovo the status of an autonomous region in their 1974 constitution. It was the great crime—one of the many great crimes—of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to negate both these previous agreements. Almost as soon as he seized power in 1989, he repealed the autonomy of Kosovo. And he went on to destroy the entire Yugoslav federation in a mad and genocidal effort to put a conquering "Greater Serbia" in its place. The independence of Kosovo is the closing act in the defeat of that wicked and crazy scheme. The Albanian majority would no more agree to a restoration of Serbian sovereignty than Poland would seek to fuse itself with Russia or Germany.