Sunday, November 04, 2007

Macedonia supports independence for Kosovo, opposes partition

As the negotiations on Kosovo's status continue, the topic is being discussed across the region. Although the vast majority of the countries in Southeast Europe do not have much input on the future of the province, the final outcome will have regional repercussions.

Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski has always advocated a final status defined by the UN Security Council -- a stance many regional governments share. However, if a UN-determined status proves impossible to achieve, Macedonia will likely recognise an independent Kosovo.

One proposal that Macedonia strongly opposes is division of the province. Splitting Kosovo could have a direct impact on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia. The government fears it could fuel separatism among Albanians in the country, which endured a serious ethnic conflict in 2001.

Many countries in the region, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, have similar concerns. If a precedent for dividing territories and countries is set, it might prove difficult for the international community to stop in the future.

"Kosovo must not be divided, taking into consideration that such a decision is only possible along ethnic lines, and that would mean encouraging many radical structures that exist in the whole region. We can not underestimate the risks that could arise from the eventual decision," Crvenkovski said.

Since the end of the 2001 conflict, Macedonia has struggled to build a functional, multiethnic state and demonstrate that its two main ethnic groups can co-exist.

The majority of Macedonians feel that Kosovo's independence will bring peace and stability to the region -- finally settling the borders in Southeast Europe. It also offers the prospect of improved economic ties and opportunity.

Macedonia currently exports most of its manufactured goods to Kosovo -- about 100m euros worth annually. But the province's unresolved status is a barrier for Macedonian companies who want to trade or invest there. It also poses a hurdle for international corporations.

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