27 February 2008

The Kosovo divorce: should we or shouldn't we?

Kosovo, it appears, is divorcing itself from Serbia. This has raised no little angst in Canada with its obvious analogy with Quebec. So the question leaps out at us: should we recognize a new, independent state of Kosovo as the United States, Great Britain and France are doing or should we not, thus aligning ourselves with Spain and Russia?

In this country, we accept as we should the democratic right of people to decide their own future, therefore we recognize the right of a people to secede. As we make the comparison to Quebec, logic would dictate we follow the rules we have laid down for secession in Canada. As upheld by the Supreme Court, there are three:

1. Withdrawal cannot be unilateral.
2. The people of the jurisdiction concerned must be asked a clear question in a referendum.
3. The people must clearly vote for secession.

Considering number one, we might make the apt analogy to a divorce. We recognize the right of a person to divorce their spouse but one cannot do it unilaterally You just don't announce to your partner one day that the marriage is over, this is the end. It isn't the end. It's only the beginning of the end and the end can be a very messy process. There are two sides involved, and they both have to be assured of a fair settlement. Let us hope the Albanian Kosovars realize this. We should make it a condition of our recognition.

Regarding the second and third conditions, a referendum has not been held in Kosovo, however with an Albanian population of over 90 per cent, the results are a foregone conclusion. Nonetheless, the people should make their voice clearly heard on a clear question, and we shouldn't recognize a new state until they have.

And then comes the really sticky part. Minorities in the region have the same right to determine their futures as the majority do. If the Serbian population wants to remain part of Serbia, that choice must be seriously considered. If Serbs are scattered throughout Kosovo, then of course separation is impractical, but if they are concentrated populations -- and they are in the north, conveniently abutting Serbia (see the attached map) -- then they have the right to remain part of Serbia. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the Albanian Kosovars reject this with the same argument about territorial inviolability that Serbia uses.

Recognizing the right of Serbian Kosovars to remain Serbian where practical is not only just, it is of fundamental importance to Canada. After all, we have Anglophone populations in Quebec to consider if separation should ever occur there. This right, too, we should insist on before we recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

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