Negotiating Kosovo

Negotiations on the final status of Kosovo are set to begin this fall. Anything else would risk new riots by parts of the ethnic Albanian majority in the province, and the great powers feel they're trapped. But there's one aspect of the discussion about options for the final status that troubles me, and that's the idea that it's somehow the great powers that "grant" independence. It's certainly right to use the carrot of recognition to push an agenda of reform, and it's certainly right for the internationals to hold the Kosovar authorities responsible for what's going on there, especially with regards to minorities. But Belgrade is bringing this up again and again as "proof" that Kosovo somehow doesn't deserve independence because it treats its minorities badly, and many internationals share this view that independence is somehow as reward for good behavior. Well, that's precisely the argument that was made to justify the bombing of Serbia in 1999: sovereignty is a social contract that includes some form of protection for citizens, and once the state no longer provides that, other protectors may -- or must -- step in. How ironic Belgrade should now be using this line of argument regarding Kosovo!

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