Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Albanian leaders on stability: A warning or a threat?

In the recent months Albanian leaders from around Kosovo have repeatedly warned that splitting up Kosovo would lead to seperatist demands in Macedonia. Among them were Macedonian (Albanian) party leader Xhaferi and Albanian foreign minister Mustafaj.

When in the past Serb leaders warned that independence of Kosovo would lead to demands for independence for the Serbs in Bosnia they immediately got a reprimand from the international community. Nowadays such statements are not even taken seriously. The Albanian side is now playing it more subtle: instead of suggesting that THEY will make demands if Kosovo is split up they just suggest that SOMEONE will make those demands. They sound like worried outside observers when they talk about the stability of Macedonia.

Of course this is mostly a cultural difference. Serbs tend to be outspoken and tell you what they think - even if you don't like it. Albanians tend to be more polite and to put much effort in hiding the differences - often by simply denying that they exist. Both Xhaferi and Mustafej are influential figures and if Albanians in Macedonia would make an effort to become independent one can be sure that they have been involved. In a later interview Xhaferi has called Macedonia artificial and pleaded for unification of Kosovo with Albania. So much for his neutrality.

In that light the recent statement by Ahtisaari in which he praised the position of the Albanian government as "the best possible" seems rather naive.

A split of Kosovo seems improbable at the moment. Yet the West is making a big mistake by ignoring those "warnings". The underlying message is that the allegiance of Macedonia's Albanians is conditional. If Kosovo is not split they will find another excuse tomorrow.

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