More recognition for Kosovo, diplomatic nightmares for Serbia

Three more European nations agreed to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, all of whom border Serbia. Hungary, Bulgaria, and Croatia all announced diplomatic recognition of the breakaway province, further isolating the Serbs and challenging their Russian allies. Serbia warned that diplomatic relations would suffer with its neighbors as a result:

Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary recognised Kosovo’s independence on Wednesday in a new blow to Serbia’s efforts to resist the province’s breakaway.

Serbia immediately warned its three neighbours that their relations with Belgrade would suffer for joining the growing list of nations giving diplomatic support to Kosovo.

Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary announced their move in a joint statement. “The decision on the recognition of Kosovo is based on thorough consideration,” the three countries said.

Thirty-two countries have now recognised Kosovo’s independence, which the Serbian province’s ethnic Albanian-dominated parliament unilaterally declared on February 17.

It comes two days after the worst violence in Kosovo since the proclamation, which is bitterly opposed by the Belgrade government and Kosovo Serbs, who are outnumbered by ethnic Albanians by more than nine to one.

The coordinated action by Serbia’s neighbors makes it more difficult for Belgrade, and for Vladimir Putin. Serbia had hoped to keep nations in southeastern Europe from taking sides on the issue and forcing it back to the UN Security Council. Croatia’s recognition could be expected, as little love has been lost between Serbs and Croats for centuries. However, the alliance of the Croats with Hungary and Bulgaria must come as a minor shock, and it underscores the opposition Serbia has generated in the region.

The momentum has accelerated for an independent Kosovo. Russia can wage economic war on the region to attempt to reverse the tide, but even Russia has to trade with some of Europe. Putin can hardly afford to write off the Adriatic region altogether. Ultimately, Russia has to look after its own interests.

Unfortunately, the government in Belgrade cannot survive if it accepts Kosovan independence, and the region may not like what follows if the current Serbian government gets replaced. The destabilizing effect of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration and its quick adoption by Serbia’s neighbors will produce a reactionary impulse in a nation tired of having its provinces amputated. The coordinated recognition by Hungary, Bulgaria, and Croatia is meant to send a message to the Serbs that they will have to fight everyone if they go to war over Kosovo — and the Serbs may still not be deterred by that prospect.