Not many people will have been surprised by Kosovo's declaration of independence today. Whatever futile and symbolic measures may be taken to appear as though it is being prevented, there has not been a chance since 1999 that there would be any other outcome (a few drunken ultrarightists on the street or press statements by tiny Bosnian groups will not change anything either). Some people will undoubtedly be celebrating the event, but it will take serious and committed work to assure that the new situation means something more than jobs for a new crowd of politicians. I am neither thrilled nor outraged, but rather think that what matters most is how the problems that have been left from the past and the new ones that are going to be generated are going to be addressed. Kosovo and Serbia are both now states, and each one has the opportunity now to show that it has the capacity to behave like a responsible one.
What the Kosovo government has to do is demonstrate its commitment to inclusion and the rule of law, assure freedom of movement and full legal protection for everybody living in the state, and build friendly and functional relationships with all of the states in the region. An independent state has obligations that are greater than the obligations of Unmikistan, which could always be transferred elsewhere.
The Serbian government has to begin to take seriously the desires of the Serb residents of Kosovo, not just to posture in their name. That means engaging with the new state as equals to build a regime of cooperation and protection. The need to make gestures of rejection is a need related to publicity, and it should be indulged for a while. But behind the scenes, somebody had better be generating ways to protect the interests of citizens.
For the last eighteen years, one state or parastate more or less in the Balkans has been par for the course. One that means something good for the people who live in and around it, that would be something.
Note: I know that at least some of you who read this will want to disagree with me vehemently in the comments (you are welcome to agree too, of course). Price of commenting -- give me advice on how to fix the comments visibility problem!