Another Balkan High Noon

With the world focused on Iraq, North Korea, and a possible clash with Iran over nuclear weapons, Kosovo has fallen off the radar screen. That inattention will end soon; a decision about the province’s fate is looming.

The United States and its European friends have repeatedly stated their intent to make the difficult decision before the end of the year on whether to separate Kosovo from Serbia. This decision – crucial to the future of an unstable region – will test Western determination and unity.

Negotiations this year in Vienna, brokered by the United Nations, showed that an agreed settlement between Serbia and Kosovo on “final status” will not happen. Talks continue, but, as UN negotiator and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari diplomatically told the Security Council, they are effectively dead.

No Serbian leader will agree to Kosovo’s independence, because nationalism remains the dominant political force in the country. Indeed, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, the apostle of Serbian nationalism, has been trying in every way to undermine Kosovo’s interim government. He is rushing to hold a national referendum this month on a new constitution without serious parliamentary debate or the usual public education. The main purpose of his new constitution is its preamble, which enshrines Kosovo as an inalienable part of Serbia.