Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Serbia vs. Croatia. Round Two?


S
erbia's Neighbors Recognize Kosovo. That was headline news today.

The Balkan nations were borne of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. In 1991, Croatia broke free and immediately plunged into war with rebel Serbs who wanted to create "Greater Serbia" from Croatian and Bosnian and Herzegovian territory. The war came to an end in 1995 with a Croatian victory and the signing of the Dayton Agreement. Although the two countries have greatly improved relations since, animosity between Serbia and Croatia has lingered.

Backed by the US Government and in defiance of Serbia and Russia, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 18, 2008. Today, Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary officially recognized the newly independent nation. France, the UK, Germany and Italy have also pledged their support.

Kosovo had formally remained a part of Serbia even though it has been administered by the U.N. and NATO since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milošević's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

The push by Kosovo for independence from Serbia stems from the fact that ninety percent of its population of 2 million people is made up of ethnic Albanian - most of whom are secular Muslims who see no reason to stay joined to the rest of Christian Orthodox Serbia.

In response to Croatia's support of Kosovo independence, Serbian President Boris immediately declared that there would be "immediate negative" consequences and it is likely that tensions between the two wartime foes will be renewed. I know I'm being idealistic by my true hope is that differences between the two nations can be worked out through diplomatic channels and not with more ethnic violence and bloodshed.