Saturday, February 23, 2008

Role Model?

Kosovo is in the news, and is not all cheers and flag waving anymore.

Here you have an excerpt from an article appeared at Spiegel:

Breakaway Role Model

Separatist Movements Seek Inspiration in Kosovo

By Stephan Orth, Nadine Michel and Maike Jansen

Kosovo is turning out to be a huge source of conflict, both in the Balkans and across Europe. Six EU member states are against recognizing Kosovo's independence, because they fear it could lead to problems with their own ethnic minorities.

It was probably the most important day of Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's term in office. After issuing the new country's declaration of independence on Sunday, Thaci announced in the capital, Pristina, that his country is now an official member of the "European family."

But in the excitement of that historic moment, it probably didn't occur to him that it is sometimes a rather moody and divided family. Only a few hours later, Europe's lack of unanimity over recognizing Kosovo revealed what a heterogeneous entity Europe still is.

It also raises the question of whether such a divided Europe will ever be capable of conducting an effective joint common foreign policy. Serbia withdrew its ambassadors from Germany and Austria Wednesday, after Berlin and Vienna recognized Kosovo as an independent nation. Then, on Thursday, Serbian protesters rioted in Belgrade, setting fire to the US Embassy.

While Denmark, Austria, France and Great Britain hold similar positions on Kosovo's independence, the EU countries that have minority conflicts of their own are opposed to Kosovo's secession from Serbia. They fear that their separatist groups could choose to emulate developments in the Balkans.

But what are these conflicts, and why has resolving them proved to be so difficult? SPIEGEL ONLINE profiles six countries that are refusing to toe the EU line.

Spain: The Basques and the Catalans

The Spanish central government in Madrid fears that Basque separatists could see Kosovo's declaration of independence as a precedent and as new fuel for their cause. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Spain was one of the first EU countries to announce that it would not recognize the independence of the small Serbian province.

In early 2008, the Basque terrorist organization ETA announced that it would make its future actions dependent on the situation in Kosovo. ETA's goal is to liberate the Basque region from what it calls Spanish "occupiers" and to establish an independent, socialist Basque nation. It was established in 1959 as a military resistance group against Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who had banned the use of the Basque language and done everything in his power to suppress the Basque minority. There are 3 million Basques today, 2.5 million of them living in the northwest Spanish Basque region and the rest in the southwestern tip of France. The conflict, however, has transpired mainly on Spanish soil.

In 1979, after the end of the Franco dictatorship, the Basques were granted substantial autonomy. But this wasn't enough for ETA, which continues to fight for complete independence using bombings and intimidation campaigns as its preferred tools. The group's struggle has already claimed more than 800 lives.

Another minority group in Spain, the Catalans, also wants more than the autonomous status it was granted in 1978. About 7.2 million people live in the Catalan region in northeast Spain, which has the country's strongest economy. Catalonia has had autonomous status since the 18th century. It wasn't long ago that Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira, the head of the Republican Left party and the deputy of regional President Jose Montilla, demanded a referendum on independence by 2014.

But the difference between the Basque country and Catalonia, on the one hand, and Kosovo, on the other, is that these regions, despite their continued efforts to gain independence, already enjoy substantial rights of autonomy.

In Madrid, the government's decision not to recognize Kosovo could also affect domestic politics -- general elections will take place in Spain on March 9.


One thing though, Spain's real fear is to finally having to let go of their colonialist past. If Euskal Herria, Catalonia, Galiza and the Canaries are today longing for independence is because the Spaniards have refused to keep up with times. Yesterday it was cool to show to the world that you were able to conquer other nations, today is not so cool, you come across as an aggresive state unable to establish even level relationships with your neighbors.

Now, what is new about this article is the usage of the term "ethnic" never before applied to the Basques. Personally, I don't like it, Euskal Herria is a plural society and you do not need to have a certain DNA composition to be a Basque.

The author also misses the points when he applies the label "separatists" to the Basques. As it happens, today the Basques are separated, they live in three different political entities and two different states. If anything, the Basques are unionists, they all want to live together in the same independent and sovereign country, one that includes the seven provinces today identified as their historic territory. They never willingly joined Spain nor France, so you can not separate anything that was never part of something else by own accord.

Regarding the autonomy, let us remember that the reason why Kosovo declared independence unilaterally was because they did not accept the Serbian offer of more autonomy. So why suddenly it is so bad that the Basques do not want to settle for Spain's offer of autonomy? Remember, what you bestow you are always allowed to take away, so the Basques can not put all their hopes on an autonomy that could be removed by Madrid in the future. Remember, Aznar already threatened with such measure not too long ago.

The article misleads the readers, it tries to tell them that the conflict started when ETA decided to say enough to Franco's crimes in Euskal Herria (Franco's crimes were very similar to those of Milosevic in Kosovo by the way). That is a complete lie, the truth is that the Basques have been fighting to regain their full sovereignty for the last five hundred years.

And by the way, why does the article mentions the deaths caused by ETA but not the ones caused by Franco? Or the ones caused by the KLA/NLA?

Maybe because the violence generated by the UCK was something Washington needed to play it geopolitical games in the region and end up with complete control of the region surrounding their Bondsteel military base?

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