Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Georgian PM rejects Kosovo parallel

We are constantly being warned that recognising the independence of Kosovo will instantaneously lead to hundreds of separatist territories all over the world breaking away from their parent states, from Scotland, Catalonia and the Basque Country all the way to Taiwan.

Of course, any democrat would recognise that nations or countries such as these do have the right to self-determination, should they wish to exercise it. As an Englishman and a Briton, I would be very sorry if Scotland or Wales chose to secede from the United Kingdom, but I respect the right of Scotland or Wales to do so if that is what its people want. I would bear a seceding Scotland or Wales no ill will; I would wish it all the best in its new life as an independent country; and if the British state were to react to its secession with violence, I would support Scotland or Wales in the resulting war. However, I am confident that the UK, as a democratic state, would never resort to violence in this manner, and that a Scottish or Welsh secession would occur peacefully.

If the recognition of Kosovo’s independence inspires other unfree nations to struggle for freedom, then it can only be a good thing. But I very much doubt it will. Secession is a serious and often mortally dangerous business; nations secede because they are suffering from oppression, or because their people believe they will enjoy a happier existence as an independent state; they do not do so merely because some other nation in a different part of the world has successfully seceded. The Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Kurds in Turkey or Iraq, or the Taiwanese are not naive enough to believe that if Kosovo’s independence is recognised, then they too have been given a green light by the international community to set up their own independent state. When people cite the possiblity of the recognition of Kosovo’s independence encouraging secessionism in other parts of the world, they are usually scaremongering.

Georgia is the country most often cited as the one that would pay the price for Kosovo’s secession, given that two of its own autonomous territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have broken away with Russian support. So it is noteworthy that Georgia’s Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze himself has just publicly rejected the idea that Kosovo’s independence would create a precedent for Georgia: “We hope our friends and allies in the west take a firm position on the inapplicability of the Kosovo case to Georgia. In other words, Kosovo is sui generis”. He nevertheless expressed his fear that Russia would respond to the recognition of Kosovo by itself recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If this were to occur, it would have nothing to do with any natural spin-off effect from Kosovo’s independence, and everything to do with Russian troublemaking; i.e. a new crisis in the Caucausus would be the result of actions by Russia, not by Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

Neverthless, the Financial Times reports: ‘Mr Gurgenidze won support for his position on Kosovo on Thursday from Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s external relations commissioner, with whom he held talks in Brussels. “We do hope also that Russia will understand that, certainly on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, things should remain as they are,” she told reporters.’ Furthermore, ‘Some EU officials doubt that Russia, beset with restive minorities of its own on its southern borders, would go so far as to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.’

Indeed. If Russia were to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it would raise the question of why Chechnya, with its much larger population, should not also have the right to self-determination.

Food for thought.

Saturday, 8 December 2007 - Posted by | Abkhazia, Georgia, Kosovo, Russia, Serbia, South Ossetia

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