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Independent Kosovo gains initial recognition

Latest update : 2008-02-19

The support for an independent Kosovo gains momentum around the world as the US and key EU states recognise Sunday's declaration of independence.

The United States, Great Britain and France recognised Kosovo on Monday, a day after the breakaway province declared its independence from Serbia, while Russia and China claimed their "deep concern", warning the move could lead to a series of other secessions in the region.


"The United States has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion," said Condoleezza Rice in a press release, pledging to maintain strong ties with the new state. 

She said that Kosovo was a "special case" and that could not "be seen as a precedent for any other situation in the world today".


EU foreign ministers who gathered in Brussels on Monday failed to agree on a common position on Kosovo, with six countries opposed to the move, but a majority of EU member states are expected to recognise Kosovo in the upcoming days while reaffirming their friendship with Serbia. France and Great Britain recognised the new state on Monday. Germany and Italy have announced they would follow.


"The EU aims to get on with its civilian mission in Kosovo, trying to create a functioning set of institutions," said Armen Georgian, a France 24 correspondent in Brussels. "The other goal is to protect minorities – which is in tune with a speech on Sunday by Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci. He wants Kosovo to have a European future and to put Kosovo in line with European norms."


"The EU is going to try and bring stability to Kosovo," added Georgian.


"Europe wishes to lead the way to greater stability in the Balkans", "but it is caught in hesitations" said Caroline de Camaret, FRANCE 24’s expert in European affairs. "Europe is trying to avoid getting caught up by the Americans on its own territory."


Five EU states – Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Slovakia and Romania – have clearly refused to recognise Kosovo. They consider that independence is not a legitimate move and fear that it would encourage other separatist movements in their own countries and throughout the world. They also stress that the new state will not be recognised by the UN Security Council, since Russia will block any such decision.


“These reluctant European states are concerned about territorial integrity. At what point do you stop recognising separatist claims?" said FRANCE 24 International Affairs editor, Robert Parsons.


China and Russia repeated on Monday they were “concerned” by Kosovo’s declaration of independence.


“Russia has no illusion over Kosovo’s independence but is trying to warn the west because it is genuinely worried for its own territorial integrity,” Arnaud Dubien, the chief editor of Russia Intelligence, told FRANCE 24. “Russia fears an awakening of separatist claims on its own territory.”


“The West is claiming that Kosovo’s independence is unique and will not lead to other breaks, but Russians are anything but convinced by this statement,” said Dubien.


“Russia doesn’t believe it can prevent Kosovo’s independence but it evaluates that it deserves something now that this major move has been accomplished. Russia thinks it deserves compensation. It wants to have a free hand in settling what it considers as its own affairs and interests.”

Date created : 2008-02-18