Kosovo Albanians will proclaim independence from Serbia on Sunday, ending a long chapter in the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia but cementing a bitter ethnic front line in the Balkans.The major Western powers back independence for the province, which has been run by the United Nations since NATO drove out Serbian forces in 1999. Serbia and Russia are opposed.
Here are some scenarios for what could happen next:
WEST RECOGNISES KOSOVO, EU TAKES OVER
The United States, Britain, Germany, France and Italy recognize Kosovo. Most EU members recognize the new state in a second wave, but six — Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Spain — do not. The EU begins deploying 2,000 police, judges and civil administrators, taking over from the United Nations. Serbia is likely to recall its ambassadors from countries that recognize Kosovo, but will not break diplomatic relations.
SERBIA TELLS KOSOVO SERBS TO REJECT SECESSION
Backed by Belgrade, Kosovo’s 120,000 remaining Serbs reject the secession. They form their own parliament in the Serb-dominated north. Serbia will strengthen a network of parallel structures already present in Kosovo, providing administrative, schooling and health services for the Serb minority, and cementing a de facto partition. Serbs in the north will reject any cooperation with the new EU mission, but will not ask the NATO peace force to leave. The West does not expect a major exodus of Serbs, but some will continue to leave gradually as many have done in the nine years since the war. It remains to be seen how far Serbia might go in trying to formally prise away the north.
SERBIA ENACTS COUNTER-MEASURES AGAINST NEW STATE
Serbia brings into force an “Action Plan” of measures against the new state. Analysts say these might include border closures, a trade embargo and rejection of Kosovo passports. Serbia could also disrupt electricity and water supplies, as well as telephone and internet services, which are all still closely linked between Serbia and its breakaway province. It has ruled out a military response.
SERBIA FACES POLITICAL CRISIS
Already an uneasy alliance, Serbia’s governing coalition collapses over the direction the country should take in the wake of the loss of Kosovo. Nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica calls for the rejection of any EU integration, a move President Boris Tadic’s Democratic Party refuses to follow. Elections are called for May, providing yet another referendum on the country’s path — westward towards the EU, or eastward towards Russia. The ultranationalist Radical Party is likely to further consolidate its position as the country’s biggest political party.
PROSPECTS OF VIOLENCE
The restive Albanian minorities in neighboring Macedonia and in Serbia’s southern Presevo Valley are looking closely at Kosovo, with some hardline local leaders already speaking of land swaps if Kosovo is partitioned. Although many guerrillas from the Kosovo Liberation Army gave up their weapons after the 1998-99 war, there are around 400,000 illegal weapons in Kosovo, many in the hands of criminal gangs. Small nationalist groups — both Serb and Albanian — have pledged to take up arms to defend their respective causes, but the 16,000 NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo should prevent major violence.