Saturday, February 16, 2008

Macedonia in No Rush over Kosovo

Macedonia will recognize neighbouring Kosovo two or three weeks after its independence is declared, in the hope of avoiding possible retaliation from Serbia, according to local press reports.

Macedonia would wait for “at least 15 EU countries to recognize Kosovo first”, before it takes the same step, a “well informed” source was quoted as saying in Friday’s edition of the daily Utrinski Vesnik.

The remarks echoed the views of Macedonia’s President, Branko Crvenkovski, who told local media that his country “will certainly not be among the first to recognize Kosovo’s independence”.

Over the past few days, senior Skopje officials have kept silent over possible Kosovo-Serbia scenarios, repeating that the country remains loyal to EU and NATO policy over the disputed territory.

“I will not comment on hypothetical questions,” government spokesman Ivica Bocevski told Balkan Insight on Friday, when asked what Macedonia would do in case of Serbian retaliation.

Biljana Vankovska from the Institute for Peace and Defence Studies in Skopje argues that the Kosovo’s independence declaration must be addressed carefully in order not to jeopardize Macedonia’s good relations with Serbia.

“Macedonia’s economy, energy and infrastructure are closely tied with Serbia,” Vankovska told Balkan Insight on Thursday explaining that possible prolonged retaliatory measures from Belgrade could provoke social instability in the country.

“The perspectives of Kosovo market are a cold comfort for Macedonia’s economy,” she says.

In January, Serbia's government adopted a secret plan to counter Kosovo’s independence. Media suggested that among others, retaliatory measures might be imposed against countries that recognize the new state.

No details about possible recognition of independence were given after Friday’s previously unannounced meeting between the Macedonia and Kosovo Prime Ministers.

The two premiers discussed cooperation and the planned demarcation of the Macedonia-Kosovo.

It is widely expected that the disputed province will declare its independence in a matter of days. Media reports mention Sunday as the most probable date.

Macedonia borders both Kosovo and Serbia.

While Skopje’s economy and infrastructure are linked in large part with Serbia, Kosovo’s main supply route passes trough Macedonia.

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