Recognition of Kosovo may create more problems than it solves

Almost three months ago the Australian people elected a new government with a mandate to provide "new leadership". In foreign affairs, it was clear that this mandate meant Australia would exercise an independent policy and no longer be part of any "coalition of the willing".The Rudd Government's recognition of Kosovo ("US and European nations quickly recognise Kosovo", February 20) betrays the trust placed in it by the Australian people. Just as the war in Iraq has led to massive instability and exacerbated the growth of terrorism, the precipitate recognition of Kosovo will lead to similar consequences in the Balkans and elsewhere.

That Australia's traditional allies, such as the United States and Britain, have seen fit to extend recognition to Kosovo is not reason enough for Australia to automatically fall into line.

The Rudd Government should have followed the lead of its closest regional ally, New Zealand, and not recognised what is, as your report correctly states, a European protectorate and not a state.

Separatist movements in Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia and Spain, to mention just a few, will be emboldened to pursue their goals as a result of Kosovo's recognition. In addition, states with significant economic investments in Serbia, such as Slovenia, are likely to be adversely affected.

Australia should have taken note of the concerns and interests of states in the region most likely to suffer from the regional instability that will inevitably follow recognition. The refusal of Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia to recognise Kosovo and the divisions within the European Union on the issue should have signalled a cautious approach by Australia.
Although Australia's vital interests are not likely to be seriously affected by turmoil in the Balkans, its standing as a good international citizen would have been confirmed if it had sought to impress upon all interested parties that a resolution of Kosovo's status could be achieved only through constructive dialogue aimed at reaching a mutually agreeable and peaceful outcome - no matter how long it takes.

Unfortunately, it may now be too late. As the tragic events in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s demonstrate, early recognition serves only to exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, tensions created by unilateral declarations of independence.

Associate Professor Peter Radan Department of Law, Macquarie University

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald 21.02.2008.