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24.12.07

Europe of a hundred flags closer by the day

Celtic League Press Release: Europe of 100 flags moves inexorably closer.

As Kosovo moves towards independence in the New Year Celtic League General Secretary, Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, looks at the broader implications for small States including the Celtic countries which yearn for freedom,

'It is expected that next month, or early in February, Kosovo will make its declaration of independence, making it the newest European state since Montenegro became independent on June 3 rd 2006.

Kosovo independence can only be a beneficial development for the Celtic countries own march to self determination, provided that violence does not erupt between the Serbs and the ethnic Albanians on the scale of the 1990's. A more or less peaceful transition to independence will show the world that small nations can become safely independent - even in a hugely volatile nation like Kosovo - and that it is the responsibility of the international community to support this goal in the face of fierce opposition from individual states.

The road to independence for Kosovo has been a bloody and turbulent one, where troubles have constantly dogged the two million population of ethnic Albanians and Serbs since the nineteenth century. The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) currently governs the province, along with the local Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), with security provided by the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR). However, Serbia's sovereignty over the region is recognised by the international community, but at the beginning of 2008 this is due to change.

It is expected that the European states will recognise an independent Kosovo in different stages, with the UK and France being among the first. The EU as a whole however remain undivided and it is likely that each state will be left to make up its own mind on recognition, although European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said this week that he hopes that all European Governments will be able to reach a consensus over Kosovo.

Nevertheless it is estimated that as many as 22 of the 27 EU states are ready to recognise Kosovo as an independent country. Romania and Cyprus have openly criticised independence without UN approval and Slovakia remains hesitant. Of course Russia is fervently opposed to independence like its ally Serbia, while the United States is in favour. It is believed that the European Commission hopes that Kosovo independence will not be declared until after the Serbian Presidential elections on the 20th January and 3rd February, to avoid unnecessary upset.

The European Free Alliance/Green group in the European Parliament, which is the representative voice of nationalist political parties from four of the six Celtic nations are in favour of Kosovo independence, with the Dutch Green MEP Joost Lagendijk saying in March 2007:

"Independent status for Kosovo, under initial EU supervision, will end the years of uncertainty for Kosovo and the region. It would grant Kosovo desperately-needed access to international financial organisations and enable it to normalise its relations with the EU and realise its European prospects."

In turn, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson MP said this week that:

"It's clear that the wishes of the majority of people in Kosovo is to move towards independence, and those wishes must be respected.

"Independence in Europe is the normal state for European nations and there should to be a future for both Kosovo and Serbia within the EU."

Earlier this year President Putin of the Russian Federation commented in an interview published in French newspaper Le Figaro:

"In the West, this solution will set off separatists in Europe. Look at Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country…"

Indeed it seems as though the independence of Kosovo will set a powerful precedent for nationalist movements across Europe, but it is highly unlikely that they will pursue a 'separatist' agenda, as Putin or other commentators have suggested.

There are already dates set for referendums on independence across Europe with the Basque Country set to be the first in 2008, with a non legally binding (according to Madrid) referendum . This will be followed by the planned 2010 referendum on independence in Scotland and a possible referendum in Catatonia in 2014. The political situation in Belgium is also uncertain with the Flemish still largely undecided whether they want to form a state Government at all, after a general election on June 10 . Wales is also likely to hold a referendum on gaining greater powers of autonomy for the country within their term Government.

There is little doubt that 2008 will see a new independent European state emerging in the shape of Kosovo, but this will not be the last. Today, future independence and greater autonomy for the Celtic countries seems more certain than ever before, especially when viewed as a part of the current European political trend. Even though the independence of Kosovo will be a motivational force for the self determination movements of other small nations, they are by no means dependent on it in their own march to self government.'

(This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot)

J B Moffatt
Director of Information
Celtic League

24/12/07

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

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