Monday, 18 February 2008

First Kosovo - next Scotland?

Listening to David Milliband trying to explain why Kosovo is a unique situation, not a precedent, was fairly excruciating. The fact is that the decision by the UK, USA, France, Germany and Italy (oh, and Afghanistan) to recognise the UDI will be taken as the go ahead by a number of secessionist movements around the world. I've been thinking about two of them in particular:

Republica Serpska. For those who don't know, when Bosnia Herzegovina emerged from the first stage of the break up of the former Yugoslavia and the subsequent war, it retained its former provincial borders. And so it contains a large number of Bosniacs (Bosnian Muslims) a significant minority of Bosnian Croats (who live mainly in the part known as Herzegovina) and the Bosnian Serbs. These last are mainly based in the South and East of the country.

On the ground, the former province of Bosnia is divided into two sections - the part with the Bosniacs and Bosnian Croats and a separate entity known as Republica Serpska where all the Serbs live. RS is incredibly poor having not seen any of the investment that has gone into Bosnia proper. The leaders are still accused of sheltering a number of war criminals (a charge levelled with some justification) and the whole place operates with an air of unreality.

But the similarities to Kosovo are striking - this is a state within a state whose ethnically different population seek separation from the main part of the country to which they officially belong. So will Milliband et al now recognise their right to secede or will they give convincing reasons why Kosovo really is unique?

The second such quandry is Scotland. Now, I don't think that there is a majority in favour of independence but it is clearly a viable question to put. After all, a secessionist party has won the most recent election and seeks to hold a referendum on full blown independence. A referendum which Gordon Brown opposes. Where is the consistency in that position then? Let me be clear - I think that anyone (including the PM) should be able to campaign as vociferously as they wish against independence for Scotland. I would do so if I lived there. However, if, like Gordon Brown, you have just spoken up for the right of Kosovo to declare UDI, then you don't have a leg to stand on in denying the right of Scots to at least have a vote on the issue and to become independent if the majority so wish.

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