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The irony of defending sovereignty

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Amidst firework displays, stre-et parties and concerts around the capital and much of the country, the Republic of Kosovo was born on February 17, 2008.

The long-awaited 'Unilateral' Declaration of Independence was made in concert with the United States and leading members of the European Union.

The events leading up to Kosovo's UDI and its aftermath will undoubtedly be a source of hope for peoples around the world committed to the liberation of their homelands from oppression and tyranny.

Over the last six months, for obvious reasons, Russia has ado-pted a 'no precedent' approach, defending the territorial integrity of its ally Serbia.

Russia's leaders are committed to their own notion of sovereignty - one as selective as the US's, but with a different perspective.

This was first exhibited by Moscow's anger at Chechnya's refusal to sign up to the Russian Federation, thus leading to the first and second Chechen wars and destabilization of the entire Caucasus region.
Whilst sovereignty is key to statehood, it is not an automatically isolationist property.

Throughout the history of the modern state, countries have, to some degree or other, pooled their sovereignty for mutual gain, be it in the form of economic or cultural cooperation or state integration/ merger as with the union between Scotland and England 1600's; German Unification in 1871; Italy's during the 1840s-1870 and, of course, the European Union itself in the past few decades.

Thus, it is disingenuous to argue that the mere emergence of new independent states would be destabilizing; newly independent states are no more likely to create international instability than existing states.

Rather, there is an argument that, in order to ensure their long-term futures, states, including new ones, are more likely to join the world's proliferating 'soverei-gnty pooling' organizations, thus actually increasing international cooperation - just as several post-Soviet Eastern European states have willingly joined the EU.

The separation of Kosovo and Serbia arguably provides a period in which both can overcome their differences, address the issues that led to the conflict and build new cordial relations, whilst at the same time retaining genuine ownership of their own futures, as well as sharing a joint one in which both sides have a degree of control.

In contrast, Moscow fears this 'break up' of Serbia will give fresh impetus to several independence movements along its own border from North Ossetia, Abkhazia and Chechnya.

Though both the South Osse-tia and Abkhazian movements are pro-Moscow, Russian politicians have raised the possibility of recognizing these entities as states (along with Transdniesta ; a break away region of Moldova where there is a large Russian troop presence), only as a threatened response against the US and EU for recognizing Kosovo.

Ultimately, Russia fears that as a consequence of all such declarations, Moscow's power and influence in the world will be eroded.

This is why Russia has sullenly promised to veto Kosovo's application to the United Nations.
During the past years of talks over Kosovo's future, leading members of the international co-mmunity came to the realization that independence is inevitable given the failure of the negotiation process to voluntarily retain the loyalty of the Albanian-majority province within the Serbian federation.

Therefore, most European States have recognized the newly independent state, as they have with all the Balkan states which sought independence since the 1990s.

At the same time, the international community continues to dictate the ability of less powerful states to govern or to gain access to all the institutions and powers that ought to come with international recognition.
A classic example of this is the continuing international stewardship of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the EU's provision of 2000 judicial, police and other law enforcement 'advisors' to Kosovo.
Sovereignty is therefore never absolute.

Since December the US and EU have been dragging Kosovo's independence, hoping to buy time to persuade Russia to their point of view.

Whilst vehemently insisting on the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity, Serbia's response to Kosovan independence is to threaten to recognize the independence of the Republic of Srpska (a constituent member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina).

Whilst warning of instability in the region and elsewhere, it is Serbia itself which is also threatening an economic blockade of Kosovo and reduced diplomatic cooperation with states that recognize Kosovo.
That there is discord over Kosovo amongst the world's states is not in doubt.

The emerging tensions bet-ween Russia and the West will be exacerbated by the Kosovan UDI.
Even within the EU, there are deep divisions, with Spain, Ro-mania, Greek Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia joining with Russia in stating fears other independence movements will be encouraged.

As a result of these fears, there is a concerted international atte-mpt to define Kosovo as a 'special case', a one-off in international affairs.

This, however, does not alter the basic premise of a people's right to self-determination.

Nor, indeed, does it preclude the creation of future 'special cases' (i.e. transitions to independence under international stewardship) based either on model of Kosovo or Bosnia-Hercegovina or more traditional ascent to independence like Eritrea.

Furthermore, the traditional arguments about 'sovereignty' fail to account for the very real legacy of Europe colonialism for what is disparagingly now described as the 'third world'.

It is rarely acknowledged that the 'internal' conflicts in these regions stem to a great part from the arbitrary delineation of international borders during the post WW2 rush to 'de-colonise.'

Some argue that the 'special case' status of Kosovo is justified because it is the final stage of the break up of Yugoslavia, an artificial construct.

But this line of thinking could be applied to any number of post-colonial developing states on the basis their splitting into cohesive sub-entities is the simply a continuation of the process of decolonization, of dismantling the artificial constructs of the European empires.

The irony is that, amid a 'globalising world', demands for self-rule and independence stem not from isolationist tendencies, but a desperation to escape state repression.

Especially given the drive to sovereignty pooling in today's 'globalised' world, the most effective response to present and future independence demands is to make the status quo of a united state more appealing by ensuring equitable power-sharing.

Rather than pouring billions into stamping out popular armed challenges to the 'sovereign' state, the international community should look at the other end of the 'problem' and forcibly compel repressive states to end their persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, accept demands for internal power-sharing and simply govern better.

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